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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Iain Reid’s remarkable and suspenseful novel tackles aging, identity, and the unreliable nature of memory. Aging artist Penny has been living on her own since the death of her long-term partner, but after a fall, she finds herself in an assisted living facility that she has no memory of previously visiting and selecting. Written in the first person in lean, economical prose, We Spread creates an immediate sense of dread and paranoia, mirroring Penny’s jarring disorientation. Is the elegant director of the home up to something nefarious? Are the other residents acting bizarrely, or is it all in Penny’s deteriorating brain? Reid brilliantly explores the scary helplessness of aging. This is a quick, feverish read that will linger with you.
Aging artist Penny, the unreliable narrator of this exquisite novel of psychological suspense from Reid (Foe), becomes less able to manage her life after the death of her longterm romantic partner, a prolific painter whose success contrasted with Penny's timidity in showing her own work. After a bad fall, Penny's landlord drops her at Six Cedars, a small, isolated retirement home in the woods of a larger setting that's left ambiguous. The owner, Shelley; the other three residents; and the lone employee seem to be waiting for Penny to complete their group—they insist that Penny chose Six Cedars for herself before her partner's death, despite her not remembering doing so. Penny becomes disoriented in time and increasingly disturbed as she bristles against Shelley's strange group meetings, control of daily life, and push to keep the residents "positive and productive" while preventing them from going outside. Reid teases at the secrets of Six Cedars without ever fully resolving them, amid Penny's confused but salient perceptions, leaving readers contemplating their own mortality and primed to see the sinister behind the mundane. Despite the lack of resolution, the story feels complete as it closes with a disturbingly upbeat and peaceful scene. This deep plunge into fears about growing old and losing control is unforgettable.