Foe

A Novel

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About The Book

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.

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.

About The Author

Photograph by Lucas Tingle

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.

Why We Love It

Eerie is in and bendy is trendy…existential questions answered through challenging narrative concepts are all the rage—Westworld, Stranger Things, The Leftovers, and Black Mirror. Foe makes you question reality and existence, exploring philosophical questions about relationships, memory, belonging, and alienation. —Alison C., VP, Executive Editor on Foe

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (September 2018)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501127427

Raves and Reviews

"Reid builds to a deeply unsettling climax. As much a surgical dissection of what makes a marriage as an expertly paced, sparsely detailed psychological thriller, this is one to read with the lights on." Kirkus Reviews

"Reid proves once again that he is a master of atmosphere and suspense. Readers won’t be able to put this one down." Publishers Weekly

"An ingenious work of psychological horror, Foe will disturb and shock you with its eerie blend of existential dread and atmospheric thriller." Book Riot

“Reid is at it again, exploiting readers with plot twists, narrative unease, and explosive conclusions in his second novel... [he] has the rare ability to make readers both uncomfortable and engaged, and this drama will surely send them back to the beginning pages to track the clues he left to the surprise ending.”  Booklist (starred review) 

“Such an ambitious work risks being muddied. Reid, however, brilliantly executes his vision… With Foe, Reid has written a page-turning novel that will entertain you and have you questioning the very foundation of your existence at the exact same time.” BookPage

"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

"I couldn’t put it down. It infected my dreams. A creepy and brilliant book." –Zoe Whittall, Giller shortlisted author of The Best Kind of People 

"From the opening page, you’ll have an uneasy feeling as you settle in to Iain’s Reid’s brilliant new novel, Foe…. A masterful and breathtakingly unique read. I can’t stop thinking about it.” –Amy Stuart, author of the #1 bestseller Still Mine and Still Water

"Spare, consuming, unforgettable. Foe is a dark arrow from a truly original mind. Page by eerie page, Iain Reid pulls the known world out from under you, and leaves you trapped inside a marriage’s most haunting question: can I be replaced? This is a book that seeps into your bloodstream––and crowns Iain Reid the king of deadpan, philosophical horror." –Claudia Dey, author of Heartbreaker 

"I’m not sure that humans have hackles, but something was creeping up my spine as I read this book, and I welcomed the shivers of shock and delight…. A mind-bending and genre-defying work of genius." –Liz Nugent, author of Unraveling Oliver and Lying in Wait

"Reid is remarkable for delivering hypnotic, twisty plots and taut prose in a short novel." New York Journal of Books

Awards and Honors

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