Sarah Gailey’s Just Like Home is a heartwarming tale of familial reconciliation.
Just kidding! It’s a horror story.
Vera Crowder was banished from Crowder House when she was seventeen. Twelve years later she returns, at the invitation of her mother Daphne. Daphne is dying.
Vera has spent her life since exiting the Crowder House downplaying her surname, moving on whenever true crime fans realized that Vera was the daughter of that Francis Crowder. Being the daughter of a notorious serial killer may attract fans … but not the kind Vera wants.
Her mother Daphne, on the other hand, has embraced the notoriety. It pays well. She cooperated with Hammett Duvall when Duvall composed his lurid (and lucrative) account of Francis’ horrific crimes. Years later, Daphne permits Duvall’s son James to live rent-free on her land, much to Vera’s displeasure.
Reconciliation between Vera and Daphne is unlikely, to say the least.
However, Crowder House is still dear to Vera. There are fond memories there, even if few of them involve Daphne. Only a very foolish person would try to keep Vera from her rightful inheritance. Such a foolish person might soon discover that Vera is very much Francis’ daughter.
Just Like Home features some authentically terrible parenting (not merely from deranged Francis).
Some authors might have written a story about a naïve young girl’s slow realization that her father is a serial killer. Gailey opted for a an even worse horror: Vera knew what was happening and accepted it as normal. We learn this bit by bit, as the horror sinks in.
Readers may notice that like yesterday’s Vita Nostra, this is a book about a girl being exposed to knowledge the learning of which makes normalcy impossible. This is pure coincidence! I had no idea what either book was about before I started reading them. In other respects, however, the two books are very different: Vita Nostra’s Sasha is taken into a community of scholars, whereas Vera faces a life of small-town depravity and isolation.
Readers looking for something cheerful and uplifting should look elsewhere. If what you are looking for is a short, effective horror novel, Just Like Home might be what you want.