After getting a call from her estranged, dying mother to come home Vera Crowder does, because that’s what a good daughter would do. But home means the Crowder House, the house her father built, and though Vera felt much comfort there growing up it has it’s own bodies buried there, literally. Because Vera is the daughter of Francis Crowder, a notorious serial killer, and with that kind of heritage Vera is no stranger to the animosity she gets from strangers and the people in her old hometown. But all isn’t right at the Crowder House, for one her mother Daphne is much sicker than Vera believed, and James Duvall, an artist, is living in the shed. James sees himself as a medium through his artwork and insists that there is something in the house, possibly the spirit of her long dead father. And when Vera starts finding notes in her father’s handwriting, she can’t help but wonder where they’ve come from. Dealing with her own complicated feelings for her father as more strange things occur in the Crowder House, Vera will have to face them whether she wants to or not.
I wasn’t a fan of Gailey’s The Echo Wife and was pretty nervous to read Just Like Home because of that, but the pretty cover drew me in, and I’m a sucker for haunted house books so there was really no denying that I would read it. And honestly, I was really impressed. Daphne, Vera, and James aren’t likable characters. Daphne is cruel, James the sneaking kind of bad, and Vera a whole different kind entirely, but they were all such interesting characters (especially Vera) that I was intrigued to read more just to see how far their badness spread. The only kind character we see glimpses of is Francis Crowder, yes, the serial killer, which is so messed up but Gailey does such an excellent job showing this kind-hearted man who loves his wife in daughter so greatly that it’s easy to forget the horrible things he did.
This is probably the strongest part of the novel. Gailey complicates things by showing just how much Vera loved her father and showing how much her father loved her in return. In a world where true crime is capitalized on and consumed at an alarming rate, it’s easy to forget the reality of it, that sometimes those killer’s the podcasts and documentaries focus on had families, had partners and children who are still alive, who have to live with what their parent did and battle the feelings they hold for them. That many times these people lead normal lives even though they did hideous things. I’ve never read a horror book that examines that, that goes into so much detail into it and Gailey did it so masterfully.
Just Like Home is simile and metaphor central and I loved every single one of them. The writing was so neat, so concise, and every comparison just felt so right. This book was just so well-written that I looked forward to coming back to it just so I could return to these words. Early on the writing reminded me of Shirley Jackson and I’ve never been able to find a read-a-like for her on my own, so Gailey gets a lot of points from me for that!
And now…the ending. I’m conflicted, and as I’ve thought it over after returning the book (which is why you get no quote from it, MY BAD) it did lose half a rating for me. It’s definitely unique, and when the ending began I was all for it but as it continued… It just got weird, it didn’t really fit with the rest of the book and almost unraveled a lot of the strength that this book had throughout. I get what Gailey was trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me.
Overall, Just Like Home is a fantastic addition to the haunted house genre and gave me a reason to continue reading Sarah Gailey’s work!
Publication: July 19 2022
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 352 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Horror, LGTBQ*, Mystery, Paranormal
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.5
“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.