spill simmer falter wither

spill simmer falter wither by Sara Baume

Written in four sections, spill takes place in spring, simmer in summer, falter in fall, and wither in winter.
The title foreshadows the deterioration to come.

Ray, 57, lives alone in his father's house after his father's death, until he adopts a dog who is, like Ray, damaged and unwanted. The dog, who has only one eye after a violent run-in with another animal, becomes Ray's best, his only, friend, but when it attacks and harms another dog on the beach near the house, Ray packs up the car and they hit the road, running from any possible legal repercussions. Living out of the car for months to avoid being found by anyone looking, they survive on canned spaghetti and the occasional bottle of whiskey, Ray telling "One Eye" his life story as they drive by day and and sleep in the parked car at night. 

This is a book that doesn't use action to tell the story, but instead peels back the layers of a character to let the reader understand who he is and why he does what he does. The prose is absolutely beautiful, the tone pensive, and the ending sad but not unexpected. 

I love these lines: "Sometimes I see the sadness in you, the same sadness that's in me. It's in the way you sigh and stare and hang your head. It's in the way you never wholly let your guard down and take the world I've given you for granted. My sadness isn't a way I feel but a thing trapped inside the walls of my flesh, like a smog. It takes the sheen off everything. It rolls the world in soot. It saps the power from my limbs and presses my back into a stoop."

As I closed the book I thought I knew how I felt about it. I would have said I liked it, that it was ok. But the longer I think about it, the more I see how deeply it affected me, and I've gone from thinking it moderately good to loving it for its language and honesty, and now wanting to read it again. There's something in it, an authenticity in the tension it presents between the beauty and the ugliness of life, something so heartrendingly real that I want to experience it again. 

This one is special. It's not light reading by any means, but is full of meaning and pathos and insight into a life worthy of our time and consideration.    


Brenda said...

Interesting how a book stays with us. Excellent review.

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