The Farm begins with protagonist Daniel’s parents pitted against each other. Mild-manned, retired mom and dad seem to have gone totally mad, as Daniel’s dad calls complaining about his mom’s violent, erratic behavior. Hours later Daniel’s mom calls him from a pay phone, warning him to not trust his father. Daniel feels submersed in a familial spy novel, where he doesn’t know who to trust or what to think.
Daniel’s frazzled mother, Tilde, arrives on his doorstep and begins to weave a tale which is as indecipherable as it is irresistible. Daniel knew his parents retired to a farm in rural Sweden, but layers upon layers of what Daniel imagined to be the idyllic golden years of his parent’s life are revealed as untruths. Daniel is shocked, not only by what his mother is revealing about her own life but also by the treachery she senses in her new rural area. Is Tilde mentally unstable, paranoid and erratic? Or is she a strong, stubborn and observant woman, willing to speak up against those in power in a small community corrupted by evil?
From its opening sentences, The Farm wraps the reader into its vivid, suspicious world. Smith masters storytelling through Tilde, who comes across as brusque and a bit wild, but captivating. Smith drags the reader along on this journey of discovery with Daniel, like being dragged along the outside of a speeding car. Anyone with a remotely typical family life can imagine Daniel’s dismay at being presented with stories so wild they clearly belong in nightmares, not his parents’ retirement years. Although a twist near the end may leave some readers feeling cheated, fans of Smith’s previous work will expect nothing less.