Just Like Mother

Just Like Mother by Anne Hetzel was a fascinating cult-based horror. Maeve has spent her adult life alone after escaping a cult, but her past is making a comeback.

All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From Goodreads:

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…

The bitch destroyed my life. And for that, she would pay. One way or another, she would pay.

Just Like Mother really surprised me with the way it had me invested. With intermittent memories from Maeve’s time in the cult, the book paces itself incredibly well. It starts off running, immediately telling you who you should know, and what’s happening in the book. While this did mean I was able to guess who the “bad guy” was in the story, I wasn’t able to guess at just how bad they were. There were so many horrifying things that I wouldn’t have been able to guess, and it was fantastically written.

As I slowly drifted off, I realized it had been more than two decades since my heart had last been broken, on another fateful birthday. Until now, I hadn’t thought there was anything left to break.

This book really takes a common horror trope of women’s fertility and motherhood and twisted it on its head. Often, in this specific topic of horror, the people that take advantage of women are men. However, in this instance, the women turn on women, and men only serve one purpose. This further piqued my intrigue for the story, and I would genuinely read another book just focused on the cult itself.

Why do women manipulate men? Ryan had asked me once. Do we? I’d replied, genuinely curious. Did we? If we do, I told him, it must be because sometimes it’s the only power we have.

It may help that our most concerning character has the same first name as me, but I found Andrea a perfect example of a female cult leader. She is charismatic but motherly, and seemingly empathetic. She knows how to present herself in order to get what she wants.  On the opposite side is our main character, Maeve, who is naive at best. Maeve’s lack of action or questioning things really killed the plot for me. I sincerely doubt that a woman who has been through what she has would let things get quite that far without having looked into things a bit more. Maeve seems to not really question anything, and trust everyone, up until the final quarter of the book. It felt as though she never really fought to prevent any of these things from happening to her. This was strange to me and made Maeve frustrating to read.

The thing and I become friends this way with our monster lullabies.

Overall, this was a well-paced and interesting thriller. I’m excited to read more from this author and hope we get more cult books that follow this same vein.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Nightfire for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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