cover image We Spread

We Spread

Iain Reid. Scout, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-9821-6935-0

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. Agent: Samantha Haywood, Transatlantic Agency. (Sept.)