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Literature / Harvest Home

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Harvest Home is a 1973 horror-suspense novel by Thomas Tryon, about a Town with a Dark Secret.

Ned Constantine, his wife Beth, and their teenage daughter Kate are slowly growing apart in their big-city life after Beth's tragic miscarriage and her subsequent aversion to sex leads Ned to infidelity. The tension between them aggravates Kate's psychosomatic asthma to life-threatening levels so that she can no longer participate in activities she once loved, which only makes things even more miserable for all of them. Their lives seem to be back on the upswing when an Unexpected Inheritance allows them to purchase a beautiful home in the quaint Connecticut village of Cornwall Coombe, a place where time seems to have stood still. In Cornwall Coombe, Kate's health mends and Beth's depression vanishes as they become more and more drawn into village life.


But Cornwall Coombe harbors strange secrets. Life revolves around seasonal rituals, starting with the crowning of a community "Harvest King" and culminating every seven years in the mysterious "Harvest Home." The village leader Widow Fortune is a warm, welcoming woman, beloved by all...yet her word is law, and she decides who gets to stay in the Coombe, who becomes an outcast, what parts of the Coombe are forbidden and—as Ned learns to his horror—who lives and who dies. Ned begins to suspect that as newcomers, his wife and daughter are in danger from upcoming Harvest Home...but he has no idea of the true horror that awaits in the ritual that "no man may see nor woman tell."

If the premise sounds a little familiar, one of the stranger bits of trivia behind Harvest Home was that it was written at the same time The Wicker Man was in production, and the two were released within months of one other, yet neither Tryon nor The Wicker Man director Robin Hardy were aware of one another.


Adapted into the 1978 Made-for-TV Movie The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, with Bette Davis as the Widow Fortune.

Harvest Home contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Name Change: In the made-for-tv film, Ned's name becomes Nick.
  • All Women Are Lustful: All of the women are sex-crazy and willing to kill people and maim their husbands to make sure it happens, although this is probably because of pregnancy. Tamar is just the most obvious example.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: The people of the Coombe still speak with the slightly stilted Cornish accents and dialect of the village's original founders.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Not the people so much as the place names: Cornwall Coombe and Soakes' Lonesome (to the point that Soakes' Lonesome is the name of a real-world band). Likewise the names of the seasonal festivals—Agnes Fair, Harvest Home—tend to be cool and mysterious.
  • Conceive and Kill: The secret of Harvest Home.
  • Cool Old Lady: The Widow Fortune is pretty badass: in spite of her age and status, she's spry, good-humored, and genuinely affectionate to the villagers. She also can harness and drive her own horses, does all the town doctoring, and is the hub of much of village life.
  • Creepy Child: Missy Penrose, who also doubles as the town prophet. She seldom speaks, but she screams a lot.
  • Daylight Horror: Though the darkest scenes do happen at night, much ink is expended in describing how bright and cheerful the Coombe is, with friendly villagers working in green, sunny cornfields and most of the festivals taking place in the daytime.
  • Don't Go Into the Woods: Soakes' Lonesome, the local stretch of woods around the Coombe, is forbidden to the villagers, ostensibly because the local redneck Soakes family are moonshiners who lay traps and shoot at anyone who comes onto their land. Turns out the Soakes are actually terrified of Widow Fortune and are employed to keep outsiders out of the Coombe.
  • Eye Scream: The punishment for a man who witnesses Harvest Home is being blinded.
  • Gentle Giant: Justin Hooke is a simple man who loves the land and his wife, pretty much in that order, and doesn't seem to have a mean bone in his big dumb body.
  • Hillbilly Horrors: A backwards rural town where they commit ritualistic murder and superstitiously kill or maim anyone who tries to leave before Harvest Home.
  • Karmic Rape: An interpretation of Ned's treatment of Tamar, who is punished for being a Femme Fatale by possibly being raped by him. (Although Ned denies it and the people who accuse him have a reason to do so.)
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: The townsfolk seem to be surprisingly tolerant of Tamar. Maybe it helps that she's the mother of the town prophet, or maybe rampant female sexual aggressiveness is a bit more acceptable in a fertility cult. However, this is in-universe only, as Tamar herself is constantly viewed as aggressive and unpleasant by Ned.
  • Lovecraft Country: Cornwall Coombe is in rural Massachusetts, surrounded by woodland, and a group of murderous hillbillies.
  • Matriarchy: In spite of its outward old-fashioned reliance on traditional gender roles, Cornwall Coombe is ultimately one of these.
  • Meaningful Name: The Widow Fortune, who decides everyone's fate.
  • Men Are Better Than Women: Although it turns out to be secretly a matriarchy, only men are shown with the curiosity or the ability to try to flee Harvest Home and/or figure out the truth...while all the women are weak, lustful, and willing to murder or maim their husbands so that they can have fertility rituals and be impregnated.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The men are either killed or maimed during Harvest Home, both as punishment and both as an inherent part of Harvest Home.
  • Men Are Generic, Women Are Special: Played with. Harvest Home certainly believes this (with Widow Fortune directly saying that men couldn't leave without women and therefore women are more special), but as the protagonist is a pretty sexist man who aggressively believes the opposite.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Ned constantly suspects the men of the murders, but it's actually Maggie, and the murders at Harvest Home are committed by the women.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: The punishment for talking about Harvest Home...and it's actually the lesser of the punishments. Men who actually see the rituals have their eyes removed and their tongues cut out.
  • New House, New Problems: To be fair, the female Constantines continue to love their new house even after Ned discovers the New Problems.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: The Coombe ain't much for your fancy book-larnin' or modern technology, and there are brutal punishments for those who go against The Ways (being shunned is probably the best outcome), but the villagers are genuinely content, generous, and kind, and everyone is prosperous in their own old-fashioned agrarian way.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Widow Fortune is referred to as the Widow Fortune about as often as she's called just-plain Widow Fortune.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Cornwall Coombe.
  • The Vamp: Tamor, who tries to seduce Ned on several occasions.
  • Widow's Weeds: True to her widowed status, Widow Fortune always wearing black.

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