Book of the Month, June: The Other

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I always thought it would be cool to have a twin. My father was a twin, and I have twin cousins.  If I had a twin, I’d like to think I would be the good twin, but who am I kidding.  Since it’s just me, I have to pull double duty.  When I’m good, I’m an angel (aren’t we all?), and when I’m bad, it’s just piddly stuff, nothing as bad as the acts of Holland Perry.

It’s yet another quaint summer in the small Connecticut town of Pequot Landing in the mid-1930s. Twin brothers Niles and Holland Perry spend their free time running wild over their family’s farm. They swim, go to the library, play in the barn loft, and in the apple cellar. The cellar is off limits, though, since their father died in a freak accident there. What better places to play than those places which are deemed forbidden?

When their Uncle George padlocks the apple cellar, Holland knows a secret way into it by way of the barn. It irks Holland to no end that their cousin Russell (George’s son) tattled on them about the cellar, thus the padlock and chains. Russell is a greasy, whiny weasel and Holland won’t stand for it. Snitches get stitches, or worse.

While Niles is with their grandmother, Ada, Holland sets a grisly trap for Russell. The tattle-tale loves jumping from the loft into the haystacks. Sadly, a pitchfork was left in the haystacks. Niles knows Holland is to blame, but doesn’t say anything while Mr. Angelini, the farmhand, believes he himself was careless and drinks himself into a stupor with guilt.

Poor Russell isn’t the only victim of Holland’s murderous cruelty. Their neighbor, Mrs. Rowe, crosses Holland when she catches the brothers stealing from her barn. In retaliation, Holland exploits the woman’s fears.

While the twins may fool everyone else, they cannot pull the wool over Ada’s eyes. Their grandmother knows the twins better than everybody else, probably even better than their own mother. Their mom lives like a hermit in her bedroom since their dad’s death. Ada keeps the house running and raises the twins while their mom haunts the upper floor. Between the accidents and incidents happening on the farm and in the neighborhood and the twins’ growing secrecies, Ada knows there are some rotten things in their corner of Pequot Landing.

1971’s The Other was Thomas Tryon’s debut novel after he switched careers from acting to writing. Due to bad experiences, such as Otto Preminger’s verbal attacks of him on the set of The Cardinal, Tryon became disenchanted with Hollywood. Lucky for us, because The Other is a phenomenal work and a horror classic like none other.

I find it odd that Tryon wrote the book to kick the dust of Hollywood from his boots and I only discovered the novel existed at all due to the ’72 film adaptation (the author wrote the screenplay). I encourage you to seek the movie out, also, it’s faithful and just as chilling.