Kate’s Review: “Just Like Home”

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Book: “Just Like Home” by Sarah Gailey

Publishing Info: Tor Books, July 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: “Come home.” Vera’s mother called and Vera obeyed. In spite of their long estrangement, in spite of the memories — she’s come back to the home of a serial killer. Back to face the love she had for her father and the bodies he buried there.

Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back, and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be? There are secrets yet undiscovered in the foundations of the notorious Crowder House. Vera must face them, and find out for herself just how deep the rot goes.

Review: Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I’ve heard the name pop up now and then, but I am pretty certain that until I picked up “Just Like Home”, I hadn’t read anything by Sarah Gailey. I’ve been tempted by a couple of her titles like “The Echo Wife”, but I just haven’t made the leap in spite of the fact that she has some buzz around her. But when I read about this newest book, a horror novel involving a woman who is returning to her childhood home, which also happens to be the site that her father committed numerous murders, I decided that it was time to finally jump in. And, to my slight dismay, as I was reading, I wasn’t really getting into it in the way that the description implied I would.

But I will start with the good, as per usual. I will say that Gailey has a very clear vision as to how she wants to portray the very real complexities of loving someone who is, without a doubt, a fucking monster. Vera’s childhood relationship with her father, who turned out to be a serial killer who was torturing men in the family home’s basement, is one that was very fulfilling for her as a child. He clearly loved her very much, always made her feel special, and knew exactly how to prop her up when she was down. We know that Vera’s father is a psychopath, and we see the brutal descriptions of his work, as it were. But we also completely understand how Vera has a hard time reconciling that truth with the other seeming truth of how much he loved her. It’s something that always feels sticky, when loved ones of horrible people who cause damage and pain and violence upon others have a hard time unpacking their experience from that reality, and I thought that that aspect of Vera felt pretty spot on, as well as the ways that she has been warped because of it. And yes, there are plenty of really upsetting and unsettling moments not only because of this stark relationship exploration, but also in terms of the horror elements themselves. It’s a VERY weird and unnerving book, and it goes in directions I wasn’t expecting, and a lot of it reminded me of the movie “Frailty”, which is ANOTHER weird and unnerving story.

But that’s the flip side, in a way: it almost got to be too weird. I can’t even really tell you why, exactly, the rest of this story didn’t connect with me, but it just goes to places that I didn’t enjoy as much as I was hoping I would. We take a VERY sharp turn late in the game in terms of reveals and twists, and it just threw me more than anything else. I have to be careful in how I talk about this, as my biggest issue would be considered a pretty big spoiler, but what I will say is this: I understand the symbolism and metaphor that Gailey was going for here, and I think that it could have been achieved if approached a different way. But as it was, it felt like the metaphor got a bit OVERextended, and got to a place that felt clunky and strange and really threw off the rest of the book for me. This very well may just be me, so I encourage people who are interested to give it a go. But it just didn’t land in the way that I had hoped that it would.

This was a solidly mixed bag for me. I think I would give Sarah Gailey another shot (honestly, bring on “The Echo Wife”), but “Just Like Home” wasn’t the home run I was anticipating. But if you like weirdness, as so many people do, definitely give it a go.

Rating 6: Some good creepiness and some interesting moments about loving someone who is a monster, but the weirdness got a little too weird for me.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Just Like Home” is included on the Goodreads lists “Queer Horror”, and “2022 Horror Written by Women and Non-Binary Femmes”.

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