Foe: A Novel

Foe: A Novel

by Iain Reid

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

Foe is a tale of implacably mounting peril that feels all the more terrifying for being told in such a quiet, elegantly stripped-down voice. Iain Reid knows how to do ‘ominous’ as well as anyone I’ve ever read.” —Scott Smith, author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501127441
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 138,166
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Iain Reid is the author of two critically acclaimed, award-winning books of nonfiction. His internationally bestselling debut novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, has been published in more than twenty countries. Oscar-winner Charlie Kaufman is writing and directing a film based on the novel, which Reid will co-produce. His second novel, Foe, was an instant bestseller and feature film rights have been acquired by Anonymous Content, with Reid set to executive produce. Follow him on Twitter @Reid_Iain.

Reading Group Guide

Foe
Iain Reid
Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Foe includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book

Introduction

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.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Reid chooses to quote Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet in the novel’s epigraph: “One has to be careful what one takes when one goes away forever.” Discuss the significance of this quote in relation to the book.

2. Is the future Foe depicts believable? Why or why not? Would you classify it as a dystopia?

3. Discuss the character of Terrance. What are some ways that the author keeps us guessing about his true nature? Do we feel like we come to know him any better at the novel’s end than we did at the beginning? He repeatedly insists Junior must trust him, but do we ever trust him as readers?

4. Discuss Junior and Hen’s relationship. Even though Junior constantly reiterates his love and devotion to Hen, do you think he truly loves her? Compare Hen’s personality to her actions and speech versus what Junior tells us about her.

5. “When you get significant news, unexpected, shocking, potentially life-altering news, as we did when Terrance arrived, it has a peculiar effect on everything, especially on how you think and order your thoughts” (p. 48). Do you agree? If so, can you think of an example from your own life to share with your book group?

6. Do you agree with Junior’s claim that “you can hold beliefs and not always believe in them”? (p. 57).

7. Terrance claims that being selected for OuterMore’s mission gives you “a chance to be a better version of yourself” (p. 71). Do you think this is accurate? What do you think the true purpose of OuterMore is?

8. Almost the entire book takes place at Junior and Hen’s farm; the mill where Junior works serves as the only other notable setting. What is the effect of this on the reading experience? Discuss the differences between the environment of the mill and the environment of the farm.

9. What do you make of Junior’s reaction to the rhinoceros beetle? What is the significance of the beetles?

10. “Being alone, it’s a tricky thing. It’s good for us, in small doses, but not for a prolonged period. And not when you’re not used to it” (p. 178). Discuss the ways the theme of isolation constantly reappears throughout Foe. In what ways are Junior, Hen, and Terrance isolated—from themselves, their society, and one another?

11. In what he claims to be “engineer humor,” Terrance refers to two of his cameras as “Flotsam” and “Jetsam” (p. 221). Look up the definition of these two words and then discuss in relation to the novel. Could this be a clue into Terrance and OuterMore’s true intentions?

12. Junior says, “I’m an individual. I’m unprecedented and unimaginable. I’m impossible,” (p. 323). Considering what happens between him and Hen, what do you think makes any being “individual”?

13. “I’m a flawed, disgusting person like everyone else. Broken and imperfect. Of course I am. How could I ever think I was any different?” (p. 361). Like Junior, do you think possessing flaws makes an individual more “real”?

14. How does the relationship between Hen and Junior change over the course of the story?

15. Who—or what—do you think is the titular “foe”?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Consider reading Iain Reid’s first novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, with your book club. Do you notice any similar themes or motifs to Foe?

2. The film rights to Foe have been optioned by Anonymous Content, the production company behind the Oscar-winning films Spotlight and The Revenant. Discuss whom you would cast as Hen, Junior, and Terrance.

3. Immerse yourself in the world of Foe—pretend you’re in Junior’s place, and have been selected by OuterMore to go to space. How would you feel about your mission? How would you prepare? What personal qualities and intimate memories would you instill in your replacement? Discuss with your book club.

Customer Reviews

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Foe 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You wont be disappointed
runnergirl83 More than 1 year ago
Junior and his wife, Hen live on a farm out in the country. It's quiet and they rarely get visitors. One day a stranger arrives and says that Junior has been selected to travel far away. He is on the list, and he might not leave for a couple years, or more. The stranger comes back a couple years later, and asks question after question. He is to find out as much as possible about Junior, for a replacement for Hen. This was one of the weirdest books. Most of it I was going, what's going on. It reminded me of The Twilight Zone, or one of those science fiction shows on Netflix. It's a really quick read, something a little different. It has a bit of a twist at the end. I was expecting something odd to happen, but I didn't guess that. Anyway, it was just weird, but it was weird in a good way. Very interesting.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I went into it blindly and I feel that is what you should do. Put it on your list of books to read and read it, enjoy it for its contents. I love it when I read a book and immediately after finishing it, I want to reread it. That’s how I felt with this book. As I read this book, I pictured Hen and Junior living somewhere hidden, secluded off from the rest of the world, miles from the civilization. They’re both content with how their lives have panned out until the day Terrance knocks on their door. I immediately took a dislike to Terrance for disturbing their quiet lifestyle. This man got under my skin as his presence puts a spin in the lives of Hen and Junior. What a book! It was one that I definitely couldn’t put down. From reading reviews on this book, I see that others are not as excited as I feel about it and that’s OK. I will gladly reread it again and again and now, I need to read his other book for it’s on my TBR pile and why wait. I highly recommend this short book, it was entertaining.
csmmom More than 1 year ago
I listened to Iain’s previous work, I’m Thinking of Ending Things and absolutely loved it. When I saw that I was approved for a review copy of his latest book, I was thrilled. This was a another book that made you think a bit. Iain seems to like to do that to his readers. I appreciate that aspect of the story but found the rest to be lacking. I did not think that the ending was shocking, I would say it was out of the blue, at best. This was a fast passed read and I was able to finish it quickly but the story itself was forgettable for me. I highly recommend his previous work and slightly recommend this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a book, without realizing it, as much as I have this one. Now that might not make a lot of sense to you, but to me…wow. I’m not going to lie, I was less than halfway through Foe when I was trying to decide if I was going to continue on. Not because I wasn’t into the book, quite the opposite actually…I was glued to those pages, but because I was waiting for something. The big twist, some overly dramatic conflict or a surprisingly futuristic action scene…anything! I was so intent on waiting for that big event in Hen and Junior’s lives that I didn’t even see what was right in front of me. Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It might be a bit spoiler-y so I’ll give you some time to step away. Gone yet? No peeking. Hopefully this is far enough. Ok, here it is…..NOTHING happens!! In this book, absolutely everything I was waiting for, everything I was expecting, everything I thought I needed to really enjoy this…..none of it happened!! I was glued to this book for hours waiting for this giant ball to drop and nothing happened…..and it was freaking PERFECT!!! Everything about this book is simple and complex at the same time and in the most subtle way that you don’t even realize it. This is a near futuristic novel but if it wasn’t mentioned, I never would have guessed it. Reid wrote this book in such a way that the biggest signs and hints of what is happening just fly below your radar until, suddenly, BAM! Mind. Blown! Foe was my first Iain Reid book and I really look forward to more from him. I think the writing style is pure genius and this is a book that really stays with you. I’m not saying that this book will be for everyone, but I think you have to let it simmer a bit because (with me anyway) how much you actually enjoyed the book can really creep up on you. Thanks NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book.
PattySmith87 More than 1 year ago
Many thanks to Netgalley, Simon and Schuster Canada and Iain Reid for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% mine and independent of receiving an advanced copy. This is the kind of book I absolutely love. It reminds me of “The Twilight Zone”. Everything seems very normal but there is an underlying creepy, dark undertone that gives you the chills. You can’t put your finger on it but you know it’s coming. It is set in the future but other than a few telltale signs it could take place today, giving it a timeless feel. This book delivered in every way that was important. It is stark and hauntingly beautiful and makes you think about the big questions of life, love, relationships and what we want out of life. By paring back on all the extraneous details, Reid allows the focus to remain on the characters. Junior and his wife Henrietta live on a farm, far away from civilization with no social interaction. Their farm is run down and although there is much space Junior and Hen live almost on top of one another, each being the other’s entire world. They are a quiet couple but you are never sure if it is because they are so comfortable with one another they don’t need to say anything or if there is a distance between them that neither one of them want to address. One night a mysterious man named Terence appears on their doorstep informing them that Junior is being considered by OuterMore Corporation for an adventure that will take him far away. They don’t know when he will be leaving, how long he will be gone or what he will be doing, but Terence assures them that now they are part of the “family” they will be well looked after. There is no choice in the matter, it is not something Junior applied for and Terence’s happy-to-help exterior but never-answer-any-question-with-details interior definitely let’s you know something is up. Two years go by and Terence knocks on their door again to inform them Junior has been selected and he will be going into space. He moves in with the couple and proceeds to administer many tests. Terence needs to know everything not only about Junior but about Junior and Hen as a couple. The strain on having him be so invasive takes a toll on the couple. Junior feels Henrietta pulling away. Terence’s evasiveness puts a toll on Junior and he starts to unravel. There is so much more going on but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read the book. This read like a play. Anyhow, that’s how it played in my mind. There are so many big questions that this book evokes I will only touch on a few. When Terence returns for the second time Junior wants him out of his house. Junior says the reason is that he and Henrietta need their privacy. Terence’s reply is that he had two years. He knew he was leaving so why did he wait until the last minute to spend so much time with her, be close to her, say important things to her. Why do we wait? Why don’t we live every moment to the fullest. Having had a serious health scare, you would think I had learned this lesson better than most. But life has a funny way of taking over and we don’t live every moment like it is our last. Why aren’t our priorities more in line with our wishes? Henrietta hints at the fact that she might not be happy. She wants to explore the big city and do exciting things. Why can’t she share this with the person to whom she is closest to? What is it that stops her from sharing her wants, dreams and desires with Junior? Thes
whatsbetterthanbooks More than 1 year ago
Unique, reflective, and mystifying! Foe is a dark, tense, disconcerting thriller that delves into the intricate and dynamic relationship between a husband and wife and has you quickly questioning how well do you really know someone. The prose is edgy and tight. The characters are multilayered, inhibited, and anxious. And the plot is a skillfully paced, rapidly unraveling journey about life, love, marriage, loneliness, isolation, manipulation, dreams, desires, deception, futuristic endeavours, and the intense attraction of adventure. Foe at its core is a twisty, darkly comedic, exceptionally clever tale that has an otherworldly, or should I say an OuterMore quality to it that will leave you contemplating whether humanity can truly be technologically replicated and whether predictive processing, perception and expectation, influences reality more than we consciously believe. It’s riveting, entertaining, and certainly worth a read or two.
suekitty13 More than 1 year ago
Unsettling buildup leading to an unforgettable conclusion More than anything this story is like an old episode of The Twilight Zone or of Black Mirror. Having read Iain Reid's first novel I was fully anticipating an eerie buildup to a twisty reveal and that is exactly what I got. Most of the book is dialogue, external between the three characters, and internal within the main character Junior. Not a lot happens for most of the book but the atmosphere is anticipatory and unsettling. Approaching the end things start to reach a head until the big reveal which is closely followed by a smaller and for me more satisfying, twist. I suspected the first big reveal and it did not surprise me. The second one was a bit more shocking. I expected the character to do something but I didn't forsee their actions. I enjoyed that twist quite a bit! This was a very quick read and if you stick it out through all the dialogue and building of tension you will be rewarded with an unforgettable ending. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.