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Publisher's Summary

Earphones Award Winner (AudioFile Magazine)

A debut novel already praised as "unbearably poignant and beautifully told" (Eimear McBride), this captivating story follows - over the course of four seasons - a misfit man who adopts a misfit dog.

It is springtime, and two outcasts - a man ignored, even shunned by his village, and the one-eyed dog he takes into his quiet, tightly shuttered life - find each other, by accident or fate, and forge an unlikely connection. As their friendship grows, their small seaside town suddenly takes note of them, falsely perceiving menace where there is only mishap. The unlikely duo must take to the road.

Gorgeously written in poetic and mesmerizing prose, Spill Simmer Falter Wither has already garnered wild support in its native Ireland, where the Irish Times pointed to Baume's "astonishing power with language" and praised it as "a novel bursting with brio, braggadocio and bite". It is also a moving depiction of how - over the four seasons echoed in the title - a relationship between fellow damaged creatures can bring them both comfort. One of those rare stories that utterly, completely imagines its way into a life most of us would never see, it transforms us in our understanding not only of the world but also of ourselves.

Cover image by Helen Fay.

©2015 Sara Baume, first US edition. First published in the Republic of Ireland by Tramp Press in 2015. First published by William Heinemann in 2015. First published in Great Britain by Windmill Books in 2015 (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

Winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for 2015
Long-listed for The Guardian First Book Award 2015, A Readers' Choice
Long-listed for 2015 Edinburgh First Novel Award
"John Keating's melodious narration emphasizes the poetic nature of Baume's language… Keating's treatment of Baume's quiet humor will tickle listeners' funny bones amid the darker struggles of a misunderstood pair of exiles." ( AudioFile)
"This book is like a flame in daylight: beautiful and unexpected. It packs a big effect for something that seems so slight, and almost hard to see." (Anne Enright)
"Unbearably poignant and beautifully told." (Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Simply Beautiful

Blume artfully tells this story edging in from the side--not head on, as she seems to know she might scare a timid reader off. Instead, she angles into the tale allowing it to unfold gently and slowly. The reader experiences and gradually comes to really know both the man and the dog. Sweet, sad, touching, lonely, loving and at times almost unbearably poignant. The narration was superb. The writing a joy to behold. I was left speechless and listened twice. What a writer. What a book. I loved it.

101 of 109 people found this review helpful

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Exceptionally Wonderful Story!!

For me, it doesn't get any better than this book. This is the first book for Irish author, Sara Baume, which makes it all the more amazing. It is a truly wonderful listening experience. The narrator, John Keating, gives a performance that will long stay in my memory. The book calls out to me for a second listen, and I am not sure what I will do, having a backlog of books in my Library. And yet, I don't want to say goodbye to Ray and his dog, One-eye, old maggot nose!

In summary, the book is narrated by the protagonist, an older man, about 57 years old, who could be called an asocial hermit but who is really victim of an emotionally impoverished, abusive childhood, being raised by a ill-suited parent, his widowed father, since babyhood. He has adopted an outcast dog, quite unplanned, and the book is the story of this experience. Throughout the story, he is talking to the dog and this is how we learn about his life and his current circumstances. It works splendidly, trust me. I don't want to give away too many details as all will be revealed in due time.

The author has captured this man in an uncanny way which continues to make me shake my head in amazement. Her writing is exquisite. How could a first time author do that? I am so excited to have found her and can't wait to see what other stories she has in her. And for the most part, I am not one who follows or even has favorite authors.

The story is very poignant and very sad and at times, also very funny. It kept me on edge as it charged on toward an ending I was very scared to approach. It certainly had surprises along the way, some of which actually induced me to exclaim out loud to myself. Although the ending should not have been a total surprise to me, I still sat there stunned and a bit dumbfounded. And maybe a little bereft because the book was over.

Books like this don't come along every day for me. I highly recommend Spill Simmer Falter Wither if my review has at all peaked your interest (I hope so.)

86 of 94 people found this review helpful

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You have to listen rather than read: pure poetry

Each sentence reads like a line of poetry. I heard an interview with the author, she describing how each sentence had a rhythm for her. Also, even if you don't love good writing, if you love dogs, you have to listen to this book.

35 of 38 people found this review helpful

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A broken man + a broken dog = True devotion

Loved it! Excellent narrator. A must read for any dog lover. No dog was harmed.

83 of 92 people found this review helpful

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Not sure what to think about this one

Tried this as a daily deal. I was intrigued by the summary. It's not the story I thought it was going to be. The whole way through, I kept wondering if I was enjoying it or not. The prose was beautiful, but the story was thin and always sort of sorrowful. The narrator was great, but I just don't think I enjoy this type of introspective and downtrodden story.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Wow! Not sure now I feel about this amazing book

What did you love best about Spill Simmer Falter Wither?

Two marginalized souls find and love each other.

What did you like best about this story?

The introspection. I will be thinking about this story for a very long time.

What does John Keating bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His performance was lyrical, lyrical, lyrical.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Extraordinary, Heartrending, Matchless

The only, only reason this book doesn't rate a complete 5-star review is that I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. Other than that, however, it's breathtaking, and it's something that'll be staying with me for a long, long time.
The prose is simply brilliant as it's one lonely mistreated man telling his story to One Eye, the lonely mistreated dog he's adopted and has gone on the lam with.
It's extraordinary that the entire book can be carried by these two characters alone; you don't miss others at all. The only others mentioned are fleeting, and those that are, are painted vividly, tiny brushstrokes that tell you so much with just a few amazing images. There's the narrator's father, a man who can't stand his child crying for his teddy bear to the point that he abandons his child on the side of the road. There is "Aunt," a woman who places a poster by his childhood bed of what children should do to save adults in emergencies. There is the character of a young girl dressed as a Halloween witch who becomes the personification of innocence and acceptance when she smiles and says hello to the narrator, ignoring his "troll-like" essence, his outcast status.
Through it all, there are beautiful descriptions of nature, tragic depictions of the childhood he lived through, the possible horror show One Eye may have come from. But the best writing is saved for what goes on in the heart: how very broken a place the heart has been and what a changed place it has become with the wonderful soul of One Eye now in his life. With One Eye at his side, the narrator has become something more than a troll, and while he's always seen the wonders of nature, he now sees the wonders of friendship.
Make no mistake: this is a hardcore listen, not for younger listeners. Young adults? Sure--especially if they want to learn to write really, really well. But there's a reason One Eye's not supposed to be around other dogs and children, and the book gets into that, so be prepared to wince, groan, hold your breath, and say, "No, One Eye, no!" As the seasons progress, the situation becomes more and more dire. It makes for a great book, but like I said: I'm not sure how I feel about the ending.
Still and all, breathtaking prose, original premise, and characters you simply will not forget. This is only eight hours long, and you'll want to savor each and every minute of it, every single metaphor, every glorious turn of phrase.
Not to mention? John Keating turns in one helluva performance. Simply flawless!

59 of 69 people found this review helpful

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Happy, fun , sad

I loved the story , I could picture it all. great narrator he read so well and his Irish sound was perfect for this book

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Crushingly sad.

Very descriptive, poetic writing draws one into the devastatingly sad existence of this character. The author richly illustrates the significance of this man's relationship with his dog in relation to his history and limitations. I wouldn't say I enjoyed the story, it's very disturbing, but this is a talented writer and I'm glad to have read it.

24 of 28 people found this review helpful

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So Beautifully Worded

A very simply told story of an old man and a rescue dog but each word is so perfectly placed and perfectly chosen that this novel made me feel as if I was listening to music. John Keating's voice and Sara Baume's writing will make this book a top choice of 2016.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful