We Spread by Iain Reid
"I was so scared of losing parts of myself and running out of time...of forgetting."
Penny is an elderly artist living in the apartment she had shared with her artist partner for decades. Though his worked and personality had eclipsed hers, after he dies she becomes lonely and is not caring for herself as well as she should. Penny begins to experience some memory lapses, and begins to suspect that she is being watched. She suffers a bad fall, and soon her longtime landlord Mike packs up her things and moves her to Six Cedars, an assisted living facility in the middle of a forest. Mike tells Penny that she and her partner had made this arrangement before he died, but she has no recollection of that. There are only three other residents at Six Cedars: Pete, who plays the violin but is non-verbal, Ruth who is a too-chatty translator, and Hilbert, a philosophical mathematician that Penny befriends:
“This lie is one about life, that we need more of it, that we need to be more productive, produce more, that it has to be longer, that death is the enemy. It’s not true. Infinity is a breathtaking mystery, or so I used to believe. Now I know it’s not. Infinity is stagnant. It doesn’t expand. It can’t. It’s just immeasurable. It’s not a mystery, it’s simply endless.”
Penny begins to enjoy having company around her, and is inspired to start painting again.
But after awhile Penny starts to feel uncomfortable with the Six Cedars owner, Shelly. Is Penny becoming paranoid due to her dementia, or is Shelly is doing dreadful things to the residents?
We Spread is a slow paced, but gripping story. I recommend it to those who might enjoy a gentle thriller, or those who are curious to read an introspective study of dementia.
Hardcover 291 pages, Audiobook (recommended!) 6 hours