*Now a major motion picture starring Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal*
A taut, psychological thriller from Iain Reid, “one of the most talented purveyors of weird, dark narratives in contemporary fiction” (Los Angeles Review of Books).
Severe climate change has ravaged the country, leaving behind a charred wasteland. Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable if solitary life on one of the last remaining farms. Their private existence is disturbed the day a stranger comes to the door with alarming news.
Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm, but the most unusual part is that arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him. She won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.
Told in Iain Reid’s sparse, biting style, Foe is a “mind-bending and genre-defying work of genius” (Liz Nugent, author of Unraveling Oliver) that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Reading Group Guide
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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
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.
Iain Reid is the author of four previous books, including his New York Times bestselling debut novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which has been translated into more than twenty languages. Oscar winner Charlie Kaufman wrote and directed the film adaptation for Netflix. His second novel, Foe, is being adapted for film, starring Saoirse Ronan, with Reid cowriting the screenplay. His latest novel is We Spread. Reid lives in Ontario, Canada. 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