Today, I’m reviewing Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey. This sounded like such an atmospheric, haunting and twisty book, so I was eager to rip into this chilling story.
This review first appeared on The Nerd Daily.
‘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, beneath the house he’d built for his family.
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.
Publication Date: 21st July
TW: murder, torture, blood, verbal abuse, death, gore, assault
My god, what a book.
Just Like Home is an insidious book that crawls under your skin and rattles your bones. It poisons your dreams and clouds your senses, keeping you under its beguiling spell.
From the first sentence, I loved Gailey’s writing style. It was mysterious, earthy and so damn Gothic. The sentences felt decadent and elongated, creating that mesmerising atmosphere. There is a clear sense of beauty and power here, but also intimate moments and flashbacks of a traumatic upbringing. Gailey keeps the tension razor-sharp with that creeping sense of something watching at all times. I found myself jumping at shadows while reading, caught up in that foreboding sense of something deeply deeply wrong in this story.
This is a book built on deception. The slower pace masks an array of horrors, with seemingly boring or throwaway details forming a vital part of the overall pictures. Pay attention to everything because nothing is as it seems. Guiding us through this tangled maze is Vera, who I could not help but root for. Her repetitions betray a mind twisted by trauma and years of repression. The secrets surrounding her are suffocating. The characterisation here of every major player is amazing, with none of them being likeable. Instead, these are flawed and often despicable people with self-serving motives and veiled in deadly lies. The dynamics between characters are fascinating and provide stark, bleak and deeply perturbing moments. Their interactions feel fragile and able to descend into chaos at any moment. Gailey’s control of atmosphere is deployed wonderfully in these interactions, with the tension building into a choking fog.
The way this story is woven together is masterful. On one hand, it is a haunting exploration of trauma, illness and fractured families. It delves into the unintended consequences of actions and the perpetuated cycle of violence and abuse. On the other hand, it is a disturbing Gothic mystery, full of gore, blood and death. The revelations are earth-shattering, particularly in the third act. The way this book is plotted is astonishing with surprises around every corner. Every time you think you have this book nailed down, trust me when I say you do not. This is an incredibly tricksy and bewitching book. Gailey ensures you follow down every last rabbit hole before the awful truth is finally laid bare.
I sat until the early hours of the morning pouring over this unsettling, spine-chilling and gorgeously serpentine book. This is the Gothic genre at its best, with the setting taking on a life of its own, haunting exploration of societal issues and the drop in your stomach at its menacing nature. Crowder House truly becomes its own character here, with every detail feeling menacing and fully fleshed out. The setting often parallels the crumbling interior state of our characters and that is realised to full effect here. Gailey also weaves in these quieter moments of reflection and introspection, allowing flashbacks to interrupt the central narrative and instead offer us glimpses into exactly what happened all those years ago. We are soon thrust back into the claustrophobic trepidation of the present day narrative, full of Gothic flourishes. I loved how Gailey took every last trope of the genre and spins them on their heads to squeeze fresh life out of them.
Just Like Home leaves you with a lump in your throat and a chill on your skin. It perfectly balances classic horror with an exploration of family, trauma and the uprooted returning home.