I read this book as it came highly recommended from different Reddit forums dealing with relationships, abuse and spotting possible stalker behaviour.
The book was indeed very good but I can’t say that the tagline “This book will literally save your life” is indeed applicable. It goes with a lot of common sense and helps identify possibly threatening behaviour, all the time putting an accent on the fact that living in permanent paranoia is not the key to survival but allowing your instincts to detect when something is amiss.
By using several examples and his extensive experience in the field, Gavin de Becker teaches us how to spot and how to respond to a possible bad situation.
Key Lessons from “The Gift of Fear”:
Be Aware of Body Language and Forced Teaming
There’s a Way to Tell If a Bomb Threat Is Real or Not
Don’t Get Addicted to the Cycle of Abuse: Tell Someone
Let me tell you I haven’t heard of Tom Tryon before this book and also had no idea that this book is over 40 years old! I had it in audiobook format for a very long drive and I literally thought it was written last year. There were only a few clues about the year the characters lived in – one mention of 1972 New York, a phonograph and also a device that reads books for the blind (much like the format I was listening in). It aged well!
As I was getting immersed in the novel, I could not help noticing it carries almost the same universal themes that have made The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood a lovely read. Modern family (mom, dad and teen daughter) move from the bustle of the Big Apple into a quiet village of Cornwall Coombe and have to adjust their mindset in order to fit in with the villagers.
I, personally, would not have made the move regardless of how beautiful or how cheap the house they were moving into was! The village did not have a doctor but something of a midwife and healer, did not have a school as there weren’t many children of school age and the only stores were far away in the city. The house also needed massive amounts of money to make it liveable (new kitchen, bathroom, floors).
Thankfully the house wasn’t haunted! Ned and Beth Constantine have moved their entire lives into what appeared to be an idyllic paradise in the country only to find soon that there is rot under the surface and by that time, it was too late to get out.
The people of this quaint little town are eccentric, but friendly. Their daughter Kate can have a horse, Beth can learn new crafts like stitching and quilting, and Ned has plenty of beautiful landscapes and interesting faces to sketch for his burgeoning career in the galleries back in the city. The economy of Cornwall Coombe is driven by agriculture and the crops especially the corn has been yielding bumper returns. Every year the folkspeople celebrate significant dates in agriculture – like planting, sowing, harvesting – by throwing fairs and parties and in their desire to do things “the old way”, they have shunned technological advances. Only a young man wants, against his father’s wishes, to move to the city and study farming and modern means to plow the land. He even bought his own tractor.
The villagers are not happy with this boy’s desires as they conflict with the role the elders have in mind for him as Harvest lord – the man to receive the honours of the harvest and the help of the people for the next 7 years.
Every 7 years, in a ritual as old as time, the village people pick a new lord and the old one is “dethroned” in a ceremony called “Harvest Home”.
As the date comes nearer, Ned uncovers an old secret and then a few others – the single-mindness of harvest oriented agriculture and pagan rituals punishing those who digress from the norm. As one of Ned’s friends observe – the village did have a lawman, a constable – but he was plump and never called upon as the law was dealt in the “old way”, the villagers punishing the deed like a clan.
In the mean-time, Ned and Beth are trying for another baby even though Ned might be infertile from a case of Mumps he had a few years back. But they do seem to get along well together and his love for her is one of the things that shines brightly through the book.
”I listened to her easy, rhythmic breathing, watched the rise and fall of her breast, my eye lingering on the rounded fullness of the pale flesh, the darker, almost carmine-colored tips under pleated translucent cotton. Though pillow-creased and sleepy, a trifle wan and strained, her face to me, sixteen years her husband was infinitely pleasing. I was not only her spouse, her lover, but her admirer as well, and I speculated as to how many married couples were as good friends as we were.”
The midwife / healer of the town is called Widow Fortune and she displays a strong interest in the new family that moved in. She is the one that convinced Tamar Pemrose to sell them the house and she’s the one that cured Kate from her asthma. She’s also giving potions to Beth to help with the child conceiving and including her in all women’s groups around the village. From her voice, you hear that women rule in the village as they pick the men and rule them. Beth is too mild to rule Ned and Ned quickly spots small changes in his wive’s personality as she becomes quieter and more pensive. Even his outgoing daughter seems to change – she’s taken to stitching and she does not even want to watch TV anymore.
And to make things even more interesting, the village slut (*cough* had to put it that way), Tamar Penrose is after him.
”I could smell her scent, not just the perfume but the whole womanly, feminine scent of her. I looked up, felt her hair brush across my eyes. I started to turn away; she leaned insistently and the red mouth came closer, the lips moist, parted. She kissed me. I slid an arm around her neck and held her mouth to mine. I released her in confusion, and she shuddered, burying her lips in my shirt collar, then stepping away. ‘I knew,’ she murmured, and her head nodded as though in private conversation. ‘I knew’”
She’s obsessed. She’s dangerous. She wants Ned in her bed and there’s nothing to stop her. I nearly shouted when dumb-ass Ned goes to her home to play with her possibly autistic daughter and has a few drinks and ends up kissing her. Duuuude! You don’t go near a viper unless you want to get bitten!
Tamar even takes it one step further and incites Ned near a stream until he freakingrapes her to show his control / power over her. I had to pull over the car and listen at the unfolding scenes. Pastoral Cornwall Coombe hid not only a murder but a whore and now a rapist! But the amount of secrets keeps on spilling out. Beth is not pregnant, Ned is sterile, and there’s a fertility cult connected to harvest gods going around the village which required a blood sacrifice on Harvest Home from the previous Harvest Lord and also a sex orgy in the fields. Poor Ned gets to see his wife become the center of the orgy where the previous Harvest Lord copulates with her under heavy drugs mixed with the mead after which he is killed and his blood sprayed across the field for a good crop in the next years.
I can’t say I haven’t read about fertility rituals before or how closely incipient agrary societies connected sex with the earth giving them a good crop. The book is a great description of such practices and customs and a good study material for any sociology student wishing to learn about old traditions which may be now extinct due to the spread of industrialisation and globalisation.
Why I liked the book
Shows the culture shock a person has to go through to go from one place to another. Either from the city to the country-side or from the country-side to the city – there is an adjustment period and also a steep learning curve when local customs and traditions unknown to the visitor have to be passed onto him either by verbal means or by practical. Both Ned and Beth are being taught about local customs and are warned not to interfere in things they know nothing about.
“You can’t negate the ingrained imagination of a whole culture.”
It presents many of the harvest rituals I’ve read before – the corn puppets, the consultation of the local Oracle to see how the weather will be, whether the crops will grow, – in this book the Oracle is the half-breed child of Tamar Penrose.
Inbreeding is described in the book as a practice of small villages – according to Don and his wife, everyone in the village used to be related to a Penrose at one point. Possibly that’s why Tamar’s child is so odd!
I liked how people turned superstitious when an event happened due to their lack of education. No school in the village means not a lot of knowledge to go around! Wind comes down through a chimney that’s just been cleared? Gasp! You must be getting some news! Child has freckles? Gasp! They looks just like constellations so she must be able to tell the future! Woman suffers from severe growth due to acromegalia – she is cursed! She will definitely curse the crops that they don’t grow.
What I didn’t like about the book
Ned didn’t have to go near Tamar at all. I know she was seductive and all but why approach her? Why feed her delusions? She did say she wanted to be married 5 times in her life! How would that been possible if her husband lived? Local ho alert!
The rape scene is pretty drawn out. I mean, it’s described that Tamar liked it and that it was what she wanted but still!
How did the news of the Rape reach Beth but not the Widow? I’m sure she would have used that factoid in the character assassination of Ned in front of the village crowd.
Why didn’t their blind neighbour tell Ned what happened to get him blinded? Most of Ned’s fate could have been avoided if he knew that factoid. Watch the Harvest Home? Get your eyes picked out by crazy women!
Why did he decide to stay with Beth after she took part in Harvest Home and she definitely wasn’t carrying his child? I get that he got blinded but the first thing he could have done is … I don’t know, become Daredevil and get revenge? His punishment was way out of proportion to what happened to him.
Beth definitely was brainwashed to stay there. But what about Kate, she knew enough of the city to maybe want to return there one day? Will she be prevented like the young boy with the tractor?
This is an example of why horror literature (that’s right, I called it literature!), became so popular in America in the 80’s. Authors like Thomas Tryon sparked the imagination of those horror writers that became the mainstream later on, like King or McCammon. Here, you can find the seeds of all that came later. Children of the Corn? It’s here. Evil in a small town? It’s here.
The third story I’ve read by Shirley Jackson, and all three have been superb. This one has really gotten me thinking about how well we really know the “worlds” with which we believe ourselves familiar, and how infused our own vision of them might be depending on the specifics of season or time of day…
A couple from new york spend their summers at a country house on a lake. One year, despite the incredulity of their seasonal neighbors, they decide to stay an extra month (“past Labor Day”) and find that their ‘summer eden’ can be a very, very different place
“The Lottery” is a short story written by Shirley Jackson first published in the June 26, 1948 issue of The New Yorker. The story describes a fictional small town which observes an annual ritual known as “the lottery”, which results in the killing of one individual in the town.
“The Lottery” appeared three weeks after Jackson’s agent had submitted it, and there was instant controversy: Hundreds of readers cancelled their subscriptions and wrote letters expressing their rage and confusion about the story
The story is only a few pages long but it can breed some dread for the upcoming selection of the person. They each get to draw a piece of paper and the one who’s marked will be the victim.
On the morning of the lottery, the townspeople gather close to 10 a.m. in order to have everything done in time for lunch. First, the heads of the extended families draw slips until every family has a slip.
After that, there was a long pause, a breathless pause, until Mr. Summers. holding his slip of paper in the air, said, “All right, fellows.” For a minute, no one moved, and then all the slips of paper were opened.
Suddenly, all the women began to speak at once, saving. “Who is it?,” “Who’s got it?,” “Is it the Dunbars?,” “Is it the Watsons?” Then the voices began to say, “It’s Hutchinson. It’s Bill,” “Bill Hutchinson’s got it.”
“The town knew about darkness.
It knew about the darkness that comes on the land when rotation hides the land from the sun, and about the darkness of the human soul”
Vampires are so over-rated or so people think. We’ve had Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Strain, The Summoning, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and True Blood.
They weren’t even close to the amazing Dracula.
But “Salem’s Lot” comes pretty close. I’ve read it in two consecutive nights and by the end of it, I was stealing glances towards my hotel window, I was desperate to go and buy a cross necklace to hang around my throat and I was definitely afraid of vampires. Not the slightly effeminate types that seem to appear nowadays, but of true monsters that lurk in the dark and require blood and lives as subsistence.
This is my third book by the horror master Bentley Little and I’m not sure I’m seeing patterns now or whether Mr. Little found a formula that worked and now he’s following it book by book. It starts off with something bad happening (in this case, loads of goats found slaughtered and the churches in the area desecrated and with an ominous message written in blood on them), then some people go missing (in this case it was the reverend and his family). Then we start getting into the story with multiple POV’s. This was the interesting part as you start to piece together a case that looks like Satanic rituals and then the Supernatural kicks in. A preacher appears out of nowhere foretelling the end of days and a final battle between God and Evil to take place in the small town of Randall. Why this place? Because Evil is rooted in some places and it appears regularly there. See Derry.
I’ve read Bentley Little * The Walking and I was enthralled by the prospect of another good horror novel, so I bought loads of Bentley Little novels, thinking I’m going to pick one up as the desire to read something grim and scary appears on my horizon. And it did. Pretty soon, I found myself looking at a cover of a haunted house and an evil-looking child on it. Yes. That would do.
The Japanese knew what they were doing when they started casting children as the object of terror in movies (The Ring, Grudge) and Stephen King did it too (Pet Semetary, The Shining, Children of Corn). There is something scary about the idea that a pure representation of a child, all innocent, with no knowledge of the world, can be pure evil. Bentley Little went a bit further and created the corrupted idea of Donielle (also known as Dawn) – a girl of ten wearing a dirty shift dress, bare footed and with an innocent face. This girl is the creepy factor in the book as she appears unannounced in doorways, rooms, alleyways, lifting up her skirt and asking people to look at her genitals and perform crude sexual acts with her.
The creepy/murderous child trope goes back to The Bad Seed, from the most kid-centric decade, the 1950s.
Children are “innocents.” So the more they stray from that, the more frightening it is for all of us. For an innocent energy to be “taken over” is the gravest of abominations the world can reap upon us. Adults are expected to be corrupt and evil, in a way. Children are the last hope for good.
Dee Wallace, Actress, The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, Cujo, The Frighteners
Donielle is mean-spirited, cruel and a pure psychopath in the clinical sense. Besides being malevolent, she is dangerous when crossed and she kills a few. The book should have been called “The Girl” or “Dolls”. It was truly scary.
Where had Jane come from? Was she just an orphan in need of love? Or was she hiding a more sinister purpose?
“Evil is no faceless stranger, living in a distant neighborhood. Evil has a wholesome, hometown face, with merry eyes and an open smile. Evil walks among us, wearing a mask which looks like all our faces.”
Such a pretty face So young, so sweet. She appeared out of nowhere, in the middle of traffic, on a busy day. A teenager with no past, no family no memories. Such a lovely child So blond and beautiful. Carol and Paul were drawn to her she was the child they d never had. A dream come true. And then Carol s nightmares began the ghastly sounds in the night the bloody face in the mirror the razor-sharp ax. Such relentless evil So deceptively innocent. Most mothers would die for such a darling little angel. And that’s what frightened Carol most of all .”
The thing we want the most is always the thing we cannot have
“The world howls for social justice, but when it comes to social responsibility, you sometimes can’t even hear crickets chirping.”
I have loved this book much as I loved most of the Dean Koontz books I have read (and I have read my fair share of them). Oddie is back and while he was young and innocent and in love with Stormy in “Odd Thomas”, with every book, he got darker and broodier and facing bigger and bigger monsters each time.
This time it’s satanists who are using a crack in the dimensional space to kidnap children and sacrifice their innocence in gruesome manner to their dark lord. Sounds like a stretch? Well, it’s not and it’s filled with good people and good and memorable life lessons I will extricate and display in other posts.
There is a very colorful character in this book (Eddie) and I wish when I grow old I’ll become a little like her.
“…Child, do you know where trult great courage comes from, the kind of courage that will never back down?’ I said, “Faith.” “And love,” she said. “faith is a kind of love you know. Love of what is unseen but certain. Love makes us strong and brave.”
“It’s funny, ma’am, how sometimes you’re so sarcastic but it doesn’t sting.” “Because of my dimples. Dimples are a get-out-of-jail-free card”
“Electricity is the basis of all life.”
That was Jacobs, all right. The line was better than a fingerprint.
“The rest said something like, Take your heart. It runs on microvolts. This current is provided by potassium, an electrolyte. Your body converts potassium into ions—electrically charged particles—and uses them to regulate not just your heart but your brain and EVERYTHING ELSE.”
“Revival,” King’s 55th novel, introduces a fellow solitary genius, the Rev. Charles Jacobs, a Frankenstein-like mad scientist who sets out to decipher the “secret of the universe” and the “path to ultimate knowledge” by harnessing and using a “secret electricity” to open “doorways to the infinite.” Jacobs is a man obsessed, ready to sacrifice the entire human race to get what he wants.