Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Baume)

Discussion Questions
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1. Describe Ray. Why is he such an outcast? What about him makes the villagers keep their distance, even shun him? How would you react to Ray?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: In what way are Ray and One-Eye alike? Talk about how man's and dog's pasts have left them deeply scarred? In other words, how have their pasts shaped them both?

3. Talk about the presence of Ray's father, even though he died 18 months before the opening of the book. What role does he play in Ray's life, now and in the past?

4. Ray tells One Eye: "You have to learn to fathom your way through a world of which you are frightened." How do the two "fathom their way" together? How do you fathom your way through life?

5. We originally think of Ray as inward, trapped within himself and unable to focus on others. Yet it turns out he is attuned to others in an unusual way. He's ever curious, once asking Ray, for instance, "what exactly people do, all day long, every day?" Find other examples of how Ray thinks about people or animals?

6. Ray says to One Eye: "I wish I’d been born with your capacity for wonder." Does Ray, by the story's end acquire that capacity, or has he had it all along? By the end of the book, have you felt wonder?

7. Talk about the quality of compassion, which stands at the center of this book. Start with the advertisement for One Eye, which asks for a "compassionate and tolerant owner." Where else does compassion come into play...and importantly, where (or in whom) is it missing?

8. Baume's use of the second-person narrative is unusual. Why might the author have chosen that point of view? What does it allow her to do? What affect does it have you how you read the work?

9. Spill Simmer Falter Wither is heartrending. Does it leave any space for hope?

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher. In the meantime use these, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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