I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.We Spread by Iain Reid
Published by Schribner UK on September 29, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Psychological, Thrillers, Suspense
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
The author of the “evocative, spine-tingling, and razor-sharp” (Bustle) I’m Thinking of Ending Things that inspired the Netflix original movie and the “short, shocking psychological three-hander” (The Guardian) Foe returns with a new work of philosophical suspense.
Penny, an artist, has lived in the same apartment for decades, surrounded by the artifacts and keepsakes of her long life. She is resigned to the mundane rituals of old age, until things start to slip. Before her longtime partner passed away years earlier, provisions were made, unbeknownst to her, for a room in a unique long-term care residence, where Penny finds herself after one too many “incidents.”
Initially, surrounded by peers, conversing, eating, sleeping, looking out at the beautiful woods that surround the house, all is well. She even begins to paint again. But as the days start to blur together, Penny—with a growing sense of unrest and distrust—starts to lose her grip on the passage of time and on her place in the world. Is she succumbing to the subtly destructive effects of aging, or is she an unknowing participant in something more unsettling?
At once compassionate and uncanny, told in spare, hypnotic prose, Iain Reid’s genre-defying third novel explores questions of conformity, art, productivity, relationships, and what, ultimately, it means to grow old.
We Spread is chillingly fascinating. A narrative shadowed by terror Iain Reid opens the door to Six Cedars, a care home with its secrets and lies. Reid is an observer of society and it really shows in his new release.
We Spread, in the normal context what do these words mean in your mind? Does it mean spreading love, or spreading disease or illness? For me, whilst reading Iain Reid’s latest release, I began thinking about the spores of mushrooms, bear with me. The active part of spore ejection and the ultimate spreading reminded me of Penny and the residents thriving off one another, those with healthy aspects of their lifestyle spreading to the others and rejuvenating them.
Iain Reid as always makes you believe your getting one thing and delivers on something completely different. A title has rarely been as threatening as We Spread.
I knew going into this new release that there would be shocks along the way. After devouring “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” two years ago, I became an instant fan. He knows just how to pull his readers in by the throat, and you’ll leave gasping and scratching for every breath. An aging woman. A care home with only four residents. A manager that appears from nowhere.
Penny is struggling with old age. She lives on her own, she’s widowed, and doesn’t know whether she’s hearing or seeing things. She sees a man watching her from the street, hearing noises from her neighbour, and yet next door sits empty. She reminisces about her years developing her art, painting never came easy for her, and struggled to know when her paintings were complete. Her landlord, Mike visits often to make sure she’s managing all right, she didn’t have any children, so she has no one else. She wonders sometimes if her mind is leaving her, she forgets to eat, and her memories are becoming sketchy. She doesn’t want to become a burden, so she decides to try and change a lightbulb but falls from the chair and bangs her head on the counter.
Mike comes in to check on her and finds her on the floor conscious but hurt. It’s time he actioned Penny’s plan to go into residential care. She and her partner had it all planned out, the deposit paid, and a place secured. She’s very lucky. She goes to Six Cedars, a beautiful home out in the woods, she’s always loved nature. The only thing is she can’t remember organising any of this, why is she being forced to live in a new home, around people she doesn’t know or care about?
I really enjoyed the tight narrative. Investigating the decent of the mind in old age was both fascinating and truly horrifying. It made me question my own mortality more than once. The feeling of urgency was never far from my mind. The journey was full of secrets, lies, and misinformation. Can we trust the thoughts of an aging woman who may or may not be descending into senility?
Is there something sinister going on at Six Cedars? It all appears beautiful on the outside but inside there are strict regimes, enforced naps, and encouraged to eat, eat, eat. Shelley, the manager seems obsessed with her vision of elderly care. She’s creepy and appears out of nowhere. Penny is wandering through the halls of old age, it’s a maze and as she gets one thing in her head straight, she turns a corner and is lost again. Can Penny work out the evil at the centre of this residential home before it consumes her?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Iain Reid is the author of four previous books, including his New York Times bestselling debut novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which has been translated into more than twenty languages. Oscar winner Charlie Kaufman wrote and directed the film adaptation for Netflix. His second novel, Foe, is being adapted for film, starring Saoirse Ronan, with Reid cowriting the screenplay. His latest novel is We Spread. Reid lives in Ontario, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @Reid_Iain.