Thursday, June 25, 2015

Heard: "The Farm" by Tom Rob Smith

Heard: The Farm by Tom Robb Smith, 2014, download.

When my wife and I moved to Arizona at the end of 1999 we only knew one person there. Pastor Tom (P.T.) was my church's youth pastor when I was in middle and high school. When we married out-of-state in mid-1999 we asked him to officiate the ceremony.

P.T. had worked at my church for a while while attending grad school - as I recall. He then took a job in the Northwest Territories for a time. He left that position after a couple years, went elsewhere, and landed in Casa Grande, AZ working as a prison chaplain.  He was 1.5 to 2 hours away from us so we did not often see him. He later moved to Buckeye, AZ and we met him for lunch one day north Phoenix near my wife's workplace. My wife was working that day and she returned to her job after lunch. P.T. said he wanted to talk with me. OK, we stayed at the restaurant table and talked.

P.T. filled me on how his suspicions and certainties that he was being followed and observed. He couldn't identify who these people were but he had strong suspicions. P.T. told me these people were politically powerful. They'd been in his house. They were conspiring to have him fired from his job. P.T. was worried for his safety  He was scared and unsure how to proceed.This conspiracy seemed to be following him since his time in Canada.

How did I react? Well, P.T. was earnest. He was believable. He was an unimpeachable authority figure since I was a teenager. How could I not believe him? P.T.'s education, training, and experience was in counseling and included mental health treatment. So, when he said, "Give me any test and I'll pass, I know this is happening," what could I do but believe him? 

Maybe a vindictive person really did have it out for P.T. and that person did have a couple friends with authority. It wasn't impossible that a whisper campaign had followed P.T. from Canada. I was a bit skeptical and thought he was worrying too much and exaggerating things. But, I also had enough faith in his observations and experiences that maybe something was happening.

Apparently a similar thing happened to Smith, except it was Smith's mother who was convinced people were out to get her. So, Smith wrote a book where a narrator gets a call from his dad saying that the narrator's mother has been hospitalized for her mental health. The narrator, Daniel, then gets another call from his mom. She has landed in London to meet with him.

Mom tells the story: Mom and Dad retired to Mom's home country of Sweden. They never told Daniel that they were broke. The purchased a remote farm property and hope to get by on farming and fishing and maybe hosting vacationers. Their nearest neighbor is Hakan, a wealthy and rude man concerned with power. Hakan's teen daughter, Mia, is adopted and Mom thinks her black skin leaves her an outcast.

Mom is very suspicious of Dad's new friendship with Hakan, She thinks, she knows, they are up to something and Mom starts to collect evidence. When Mia disappears Hakan says she ran away. Mom knows Mia is dead and collects more evidence. Mom tells the story and sounds crazier and crazier. But, there are questions.  Daniel ends up getting Mom admitted to a mental health facility. Three months later Daniel flies to Sweden hoping that he can find answers about Mia's disappearance that will help his mother accept treatment and recover.

Anyway. This write-up is running long. Audiobook narration by James Langton and Suzanne Toren was quite good. Toren had the tough task of being both nuts and believable. Mom sees patterns everywhere: the LCD panel on a outboard boat engine, a quilted wall hanging, the way Mia dresses, Hakan's sideways smile in a photograph. Her evidence is bizarre at best.

There do turn out to be hidden secrets. You knew there would be. Those secrets are a bit surprising and make sense.

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