Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review: Harvest Home

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Harvest HomeHarvest Home by Thomas Tryon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's go back to a time when women's liberation was coming into its own with consciousness-raising groups, and we were about to enter the wonderful world of cults and revisit secret societies.

The narrator, Ned Constantine, believes that he can finally fulfill his family's dream of a country home when they stumble upon a fixer-upper in a small, isolated town called Cornwall Coombe. Initially, he is told that none of the property in the Coome is for sale, but a few months later, he receives a call telling him that Tamar Penrose is willing to sell her family home, if the Constantine's would like to move-in.


Cornwall Coombe welcomes the Constantines. Neighbors are quick to provide support in any way that is needed. When Ned's favorite handyman takes off for Las Vegas, a new friend, the Widow Fortune, recommends Worthy Pettinger. Ned adores Worthy for his industriousness, his smarts, and his winning smile, and encourages the boy in his dreams to some day leave Cornwall Coombe and get a degree in agriculture. Ned later learns that Worthy's family does not approve, but has no idea why.

Meanwhile, Ned is constantly on alert for his daughter's psychosomatic asthma attacks and his wife's bouts of depression. It doesn't help that Tamar Penrose, the village tart, is constantly trying to seduce Ned.

As time goes on, and the seasonal festivities continue to mark various points in the growing season with elaborate rituals, Ned begins to suspect that there's more to these outwardly simple country folk. The more he probes for information about the mysterious disappearances of former residents, and the "suicide" of a girl named Grace Everdeen, it becomes apparent that dark forces are behind the daily lives of Cornwall Coombe's residents. Cornwall Coombe relies on good harvests for survival, and the residents will do whatever is necessary to ensure a good harvest.

When I was reading Harvest Home, I kept remembering The Wicker Man and Children of the Corn from Night Shift---not the silly movie, even though it's awesome in its own special way.

The pacing is a bit slow at the beginning, but all the pieces come together later. This is one case where I think the slow pace works because you really get pulled into Ned's perspective in that a few things don't seem quite right, but for a while, it's easy to come up with reasonably explanations for what seems off---until it isn't.

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