Foe by Iain Reid
A taut, philosophical 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.
Reading the synopsis only gives you a simple idea of what this book could be and that idea is tantalizing enough that I requested the ARC on NetGalley. Getting an advance reading copy is a privilege and so it always make me sad that I can’t sometimes rate it higher because some reads just end up being three starred and that’s the truth. That’s what happened with this one.
A psychological mind-blowing concept with no little to no plot and a lot of emphasis on a relationship, this book is at times absolutely amazing and many more times a bit of a let down. The idea of a couple (Junior & Henrietta) living in the middle of nowhere, who have almost no visitors in their daily life and that life being disrupted by something or rather someone. The stranger, Terrence, claims that Junior has been chosen for a project with government and OuterMore to go to space. He tells them that it’s for the betterment of the mankind.
As Terrence explains to Junior and Hen that he needn’t worry about Hen, that a replacement for Junior will be provided for Hen and she won’t even have to miss him. Thus begins the extremely intimate search into Junior and Hen’s private life. It’s a fairly straightforward plot with far more effort put into the relationship between a married couple who then undergoes something so unique and out of the box (at least for me) that it changes them irrevocably by the end of the book.
I think ‘A taut, philosophical mind-bender’ describes this book perfectly and as we read on, we might even guess how it will end but the journey to that is pretty awesome in itself that I didn’t mind finishing it fast. For all that the summary gives off sci-fi vibes, it’s all about people and how they change or don’t change in a marriage.
I gave it three stars because I wasn’t given enough space travel and actual sci-fi part in the book, I mean, it’s rather clever that they wrapped up a book essentially about people in a pretty sci-fi genre but for me, that felt a bit of a let down. There was also the matter of Junior not really changing as a person (which you will see as you read on) that also let me down.
Overall, a really good look at a marriage tested by circumstances so unique and weird that you have to finish to see if you are right in guessing what’s gonna happen.