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JUST LIKE MOTHER by Anne Heltzel

A girl would be such a blessing…

The last time Maeve saw her cousin was the night she escaped the cult they were raised in. For the past two decades, Maeve has worked hard to build a normal life in New York City, where she keeps everything—and everyone—at a safe distance.

When Andrea suddenly reappears, Maeve regains the only true friend she’s ever had. Soon she’s spending more time at Andrea’s remote Catskills estate than in her own cramped apartment. Maeve doesn’t even mind that her cousin’s wealthy work friends clearly disapprove of her single lifestyle. After all, Andrea has made her fortune in the fertility industry—baby fever comes with the territory.

The more Maeve immerses herself in Andrea’s world, the more disconnected she feels from her life back in the city; and the cousins’ increasing attachment triggers memories Maeve has fought hard to bury. But confronting the terrors of her childhood may be the only way for Maeve to transcend the nightmare still to come…

Title : Just Like Mother
Author : Anne Heltzel
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary / mystery
Publisher : Nightfire
Release Date : May 17, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★

Hollis’ 4 star review

Creepy cover aside this isn’t what I, personally, would classify as horror. But I think maybe that’s my only complaint about this experience.

I went into this without knowing anything about the plot, despite the fact that it was all over bookstagram last year, and in fact the only reason I actually picked it up was because this was one of the recommendations for my Twelve Books in Twelve Months challenge. So while I expected horror, even though I didn’t get it.. I got a lot of other stuff. Good stuff. Weird stuff. Fucked up stuff.

I’ll have to read some reviews to determine if everything that was happening in Just Like Mother was supposed to obvious or not because despite the fact that Maeve is oblivious to everything going on around her, I, the reader, was not. This could definitely have ruined any potential tension and build-up but the story still managed to evoke a sense of dread and discomfort. Maybe moreso because I knew what the protagonist did not. It’s like when you’re yelling at the tv during a slasher flick, screaming for the heroine not to go down in the basement where the killer is waiting to, well, slash. You know what’s about to happen but it doesn’t make it any less scary.

What was so interesting about this story, though, was how flipped on it’s head it was compared to the standard issue paradigm I’ve seen in other books about cults. Or at least the few I’ve read. It was perverse and sinister in new ways and the motherhood mantra was oppressive and icky and so the whole vibe was really well done. And the cherry ontop? That ending. You sort’ve see it coming based on the seeds that had been planted earlier on but still.. it was good.

Okay, actually, I thought of one thing that just didn’t quite fit. The bit with the cops. I just.. that seemed hard to swallow but it’s a blink and you miss it moment considering so much else is happening. And I don’t even know why I’m mentioning it here in such a vague way when it won’t mean anything to anyone who hasn’t read it but. Here we are. IYKYK.

Not quite sure who I would recommend this to, if anyone, but I had a surprisingly good time with it.