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FANGirl Book Reviews: Stories to Sink Your Teeth Into – “JUST LIKE HOME” by Sarah Gailey

Wednesday, September 14, 2022 | FANGirl Book Reviews


Release Date: July 19, 2022
Publisher: Tor
Rating: 4/5 Bites

Tense, evocative, and riddled with surprises, Just Like Home [Tor, July 2022] by Sarah Gailey is delightfully claustrophobic gothic fiction mixed with important—even endearing—lessons on family, forgiveness, and the power of unconditional love.

There’s something innately haunting about going home to watch a loved one die, especially when “home” is as much a memory as it is a place and “loved one” is a matter of lineage more than emotion. But that’s exactly what Vera Crowder faces when her estranged, expiring mother calls Vera home to watch her die. Vera’s homecoming is more, though, than a daughterly duty—it’s a return to a crime scene. Decades before, Vera’s father—Francis Crowder, who built the notorious Crowder House—was discovered as a serial killer who tortured and killed men in the house’s basement, directly under Vera’s childhood bedroom. While Crowder House has been relegated to a gory landmark and dissected (even vandalized) by artists seeking “inspiration,” the town doesn’t want the house there any more than it wants Vera or her mother. Many, including Vera’s one-time best friend Brandon and his mother, are anxious to see everything Crowder permanently erased from their small town’s collective memory. 

Unfortunately, Crowder House is not just a house, nor is it ready to be forgotten.

Gailey’s prose is lovely, atmospheric, and delightfully cloying, crowding the pages like Crowder House gathers around its inhabitants. Tension is achieved through an alternating timeline—Vera as an adult after, and her as a child before—as the story unravels as slowly and intentionally as a reptile shedding skin. The author misses a few opportunities to heighten the emotional stakes of the plot, however, the ending ultimately satisfies. There’s more than one monster in Crowder House and enough surprises and carefully crafted realizations to keep readers burning the midnight oil. 

As much a story about the unintended forms and consequences of love as it is about facing internal and external horrors, Just Like Home offers a new perspective in gothic fiction—what if it’s not the house that’s evil, but the people inside it?—making Gailey’s newest a totally different kind of monster under the bed.

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