We Spread by Iain Reid

I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of We Spread by Iain Reid.  As a huge fan of Reid’s writing- his past bestselling books are favourites – I expected his latest to be no exception.  We Spread is a relatively short story, one I would call a novella. It is formatted with large spacing between the sentences and with full pages that hold only a few sentences. I read this book in one sitting.

The initial storyline is a rather simple one: An older lady named Penny is suffering the effects of loss when her long-term partner passes away and feelings of isolation set in. She is living a sparse life alone when Penny believes she can hear voices in the vacant apartment next door. She is mixed up by her suspicions but trying to get on with things on her own. She suffers a fall. Penny’s landlord Mike steps in and is driving her to a new and lovely facility, organized before her partner’s passing. Penny is relocated to where she is told she’ll be happy to be around those of her own age and circumstance. Odd “incidents” begin occurring, and Penny starts to question herself and her mental health. She just as quickly dismisses these oddities, citing ‘old age’. There are others around her encouraging Penny to take up her painting again, enjoy the beautiful woodland scenery, and indulge in the delicious meals.  In other words, there is no need to worry now that Penny is in her new long-term care home. As the story unfolds, told in Reid’s unique style of equivocal writing, I begin to think there is more to Penny’s life and placement than I first expected. Could there be something sinister involved?

“I watch as he starts unpacking some clothes, putting them into the dresser and closet. How did they get packed? Was it Mike? I didn’t do that. I don’t remember packing anything. But my clothes are here. I look around the room again. I’ve never lived anywhere this nice before. Not in my whole life.”

I typically love Iain Reid’s writing and pacing.  His beauty of story structure and his artistry in storytelling is what I have come to expect. Reid’s expert ability in the construct of a psychological thriller is not absent in this new offering.  He explores the life and mind of Penny, and I like that he brings forward important questions of ageing and how the elderly are treated as decline undoubtedly occurs. 

I agree with Reid that the physical and mental well-being of our elderly population should be brought to light. But, this book does not work for me on another level.  What I enjoy most about Reid’s stories just wasn’t there with this one.  I felt it was a well-told story, but lacked originality. We Spread is a story I have read before, with movie elements written into it that I have seen before. An unusual mash-up for Iain Reid, to be sure. However, I will look forward to his next book. While I wait, I will re-read his fantastic novels, I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Foe.

About the Author

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 co-writing the screenplay. His latest novel is We Spread. Reid lives in Ontario, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @Reid_Iain.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster; Canadian edition (Sept. 27 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1982165057
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982165055

Carrie Stanton has a BA in Political Science from the University of Calgary. She is the author of The Jewel and Beast Bot, and picture books, Emmie and the Fierce Dragon and The Gardener. Carrie loves to write stories that grow wings and transport readers everywhere.  She reads and enjoys stories from every genre.