The man known only as Brint interrogates Adam on the interview tapes. At first he appears to be a psychiatrist, helping Adam remember his past. His tone is gentle and kind, and he encourages Adam to take his time. Gradually, it becomes clear that he has his own agenda and that discovering what Adam can remember is perhaps more important to Brint than it is to the boy. As the reader begins to distrust Brint, so does Adam, and he resists answering Brint’s questions. When Adam voices his mistrust or asks Brint a direct question about his intentions, Brint cleverly changes the subject, and Adam, in his drugged state, does not notice the deception. In the end, it appears that Brint is not a psychiatrist at all but a government investigator attempting to determine whether Adam (“Subject A”) remembers anything incriminating.
Adam Farmer is the main character of the novel; he narrates one strand of the story in the first person and is the center of the action in the other two strands. Adam is a pleasant but shy and nervous boy who has few friends and little confidence. He is often afraid—of dogs, open spaces, closed spaces, “a thousand things.” He wants to be a writer, like Thomas Wolfe. As he enters his teen years, he falls in love with Amy, who draws him out of his shell, and he begins to notice that his parents seem to have a secret. Slowly, he discovers that he was born with a different name (Paul Delmonte) and that he and his parents were relocated and given new identities by the government. In the “present” strands of the novel, Adam is riding his bike to visit his father in Rutterburg, Vermont, a town seventy miles away. In another strand of the novel, he is interrogated by a man named Brint, who wants to know what Adam remembers of his past. Gradually, it becomes clear that Adam/Paul is being held in some sort of mental institution, continually drugged. His bike trip, as is revealed at the end of the novel, occurs mostly in Adam’s imagination. In fact, his father and his mother are dead. Remembering “The Farmer in the Dell,” the song his father used to sing, Adam is the one who says to himself near the end of the novel, “I am the cheese”—the cheese that stands alone.
David Farmer, Adam’s father, was born Anthony Delmonte, and until Adam/Paul was a toddler he was a newspaper reporter. When he discovered a connection between organized crime and government officials, he testified before Congress, was threatened, and had his wife and son relocated and renamed, along with himself, by the U.S. Department of Re-Identification. Since then, he has gone by the name Mr. Farmer, worked as an insurance agent, and kept in touch with the mysterious Mr. Grey. The...
(The entire section is 1134 words.)