***** - We Spread
WE SPREAD IAIN REID *****
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.
MY REVIEW *****
I wasn’t sure what to expect with ‘We Spread’, but it was a lovely surprise! Penny, an elderly lady who is struggling to live at home by herself, is moved in to a very small, close-knit care home called Six Cedars. However, as time goes on and the staff start behaving oddly, Penny is unsure whether all is as it seems.
We Spread is quite a short book at around 300 pages, however it certainly is an engaging and compelling read which I finished in two sessions. I could not put it down! The story is very moving in places, particularly early on when Penny is trying to cope on her own and when she reminisces about her life. When she reaches the care home it is still sad but there is a real underlying malice and sinister air about the place. You can’t be sure what is going to happen and what might be revealed.
Penny is an unreliable narrator, her short-term memory is fading and she leaves notes to try and explain or remember certain pieces of information. As a result, some of the prose and dialogue is repeated slightly to remind us of this, although it is very well done and doesn’t feel tedious or repetitive. My mind jumped around from trying to work out if the care home and its unusual owner Shelley really had bad motives or if this paranoia was just a result of Penny’s old age.
The plot slowly and carefully increases the stakes and builds tension all the way up until the end when we get some more information. I still don’t really know what was real and what was Penny’s imagination by the end but I don’t mind at all – it was a good choice which leaves the reader thinking about the book for days after they’ve turned the final page.
Overall, We Spread is a moving and sinister read which kept me hooked throughout. I will certainly keep an eye out for more books by Iain Reid. Thank you to NetGalley & Simon & Schuster – Scribner UK for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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