Published by Simon & Schuster Canada on August 7th, 2018
A taut, psychological mind-bender from the bestselling author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things.
We don’t get visitors. Not out here. We never have.
In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm...very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won't have a chance to miss him, because she won't be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.
Told in Reid’s sharp and evocative style, Foe examines the nature of domestic relationships, self-determination, and what it means to be (or not to be) a person. An eerily entrancing page-turner, it churns with unease and suspense from the first words to its shocking finale.
I was fortunate enough to not know about Iain Reid’s new book before it was available to me: I probably would have died of impatience, considering how I absolutely loved his first psychological thriller I’m Thinking of Ending Things. This new novel bears his unmistakable mark: it’s written in the same riveting style, with a large focus on building a thick and eerie atmosphere.
Even more than with I’m Thinking of Ending Things, it will somewhat ruin the book to sum up its premise. Actually, I would recommend to not read the book’s blurb… unless you don’t mind spoilers. For this review, I’ll keep things to a minimum.
Foe shares a lot of similarities with I’m Thinking of Ending Things.
First, it is another story taking place in a remote place, in almost complete isolation.
Second, the main characters are again a couple with communication issues.
Third, the narration is dominated by the reflections and introspection of Junior, the protagonist.
Fourth, the atmosphere in Foe is uncomfortable and eerie, although in a very different way than I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Very early in the story, you get a sense that something is off with the situation and people’s behaviours… yet it is difficult to pinpoint what it is.
Last but not least, Foe is an absolute page-turner and is impossible to put down!
However, Foe isn’t without flaws. The way the narrator expresses himself is very abstract and frustrating. It’s part of his personality, but it makes it very hard to connect with him. He offers no facts on his life, only vague allusions.
Also, the novel leans towards sci-fi—which I enjoyed—yet unfortunately, I’m suspecting that most fans of the genre will quickly guess where the plot is heading. I did, and off the top of my head I can think of three movies that rely on a similar idea. It made the “big reveal” fall flat for me, even though the ending adds a very interesting and almost humorous twist.
Still, Foe is captivating for its exploration of the theme that underlies Iain Reid’s first novel: how do you really know someone? What makes a relationship work or not, on an intellectual and emotional level?
I’m Thinking of Ending Things was one of the best book I had read in a very, very long time and it probably set the bar a tad too high for Foe. However, this is a very original, strong and fascinating novel, with a unique atmosphere and riveting plot. With Foe, Reid only confirmed his talent and uniqueness as a writer. I guess the only bad news is… the wait for his next book is now starting!