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Just Like Mother

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Horror (2022)
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…

320 pages, Hardcover

First published May 17, 2022

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About the author

Anne Heltzel

6 books311 followers
Anne Heltzel is an author, ghostwriter, and editor. She spends her time in Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, and likes dogs, food, wallpaper, and books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,157 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,315 reviews · 44.1k followers
May 16, 2023
This book’s ultra eerie cover whispered to my ear “please read me and just in case wear your adult diapers to prevent any inappropriateness! )
Well, what can I say? I always keen on freaky-scary- spine tingling themes!

I was truly right to judge the book from its scary cover: especially the shocking opening: two little girls who are also cousins escape into the woods for playing a game and one of them go berserk, acting like she’s Bloody Mary.

Maeve leaves her cousin Andrea behind, being punished by one of her cult mothers, finding herself trapped in a closet. She hears screaming of a wounded animal inside the house. But unfortunately this is not a real animal. Her cousin Andrea returns back from the woods to soothe her at the other side of the door as the screams get louder. This one of the bizarrest book openings made me drop my ereader and gulp my whole drink to gather my senses!

We move forward to meet with adult versions of the girls. We understand that they fell apart. Maeve in her early thirties, building a life in Big Apple, having limited social life, no close friendships, no longtime relationship instead of no strings attached pattern she has with a bartender, working as publishing editor.

She keeps looking for her estranged cousin Andrea she’s lost when they were children. As a final result she applies to a DNA search site. Miraculously someone answers her email: yes, that’s her cousin: Wow! She became a very wealthy and successful business woman. CEO of a startup with groundbreaking contributions to lifestyle market named NewLife.

They contact and try catching from where they left things. Andrea is married with her beloved husband Rob. She still grieves from the loss of her child. After their meeting, Andrea invites Maeve to their Catskills mansion ( yes you may only call this place a secluded, huge mansion) Maeve accepts to this invitation without thinking any further. It’s better to celebrate her birthday weekend alone in her cramped apartment.

And she gets introduced to Andrea’s company latest production: Olivia doll: which helps both expecting and grieving families to connect with a baby. Andrea tells her this product matches well with their life coaching business. Maeve finds it bizarre but she keeps to herself.

As long as she starts spending time with her cousin and her inner circle, she slowly drifts apart from her normal life style. But being nearby her triggers the memories about her dark past in the cult and she realizes she’s a pawn of a very dangerous game. She’d better run to save herself but could she manage to do that?

Well: this book is breathtaking, one sit read! The pacing and execution of the story is marvelous and ending is jaw dropping!

It’s dark, it’s nerve bending, if you like to get scared and push your vocal cords for more screaming, this is a great choice for you!

I love dark stories and I truly enjoy this book!
Special thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan- Tor/ Forge for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Misty Marie Harms.
559 reviews · 417 followers
May 29, 2022
**4.5 Stars**

Dear Ms. Anne Heltel,

I would like to bring to your attention the book you have written will have me having nightmares at least for a week. Was it necessary to include dolls with AI intelligence? Dolls are already creepy, but you had to turn it up a few notches. Then to throw in a Motherhood cult is well played, ma'am. Enclosed you will find my cash app tag in which I demand payment for the upcoming therapy I will now need.

Traumatized In Florida
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews · 10.7k followers
July 13, 2023
**3.5-stars rounded up**

Twenty years ago, Maeve risked her life and fled the cult she was born and raised in. After that Maeve was swiftly adopted by a loving couple, but the transition to life on the outside was quite difficult.

Maeve feared boys and men. She had never been to a public school, or played amongst her peers of the opposite sex.

Now an adult, Maeve has done her best to build a normal life for herself in NYC. She works in publishing and has a guy she's kind of sweet on.

One thing she is missing though is a family. She doesn't want any children of her own, but Maeve misses being a part of a larger family nonetheless. In particular, she misses her cousin and childhood best friend, Andrea, who she hasn't seen since the night she fled the cult.

In an unexpected turn of events, Maeve is finally reconnected with Andrea via a DNA service. Thank you, 23andMe.

Andrea is wildly successful, an entrepreneur in the fertility industry. She's married, with a loving husband and big old house she just purchased upstate. A house she pretty much offers up to Maeve on a platter.

Maeve is excited for the opportunity to reunite with her cousin and become a steady part of her life. She travels to the house upstate, along with Andrea, her husband Rob and Andrea's work partner, Emily.

The more Andrea and Maeve interact, and Emily too, she can't be discounted in this assessment, the more uneasy the vibe becomes. There's clearly something off, but Maeve isn't really open to acknowledging that.

Maeve wants Andrea back in her life. She's willing to overlook any awkwardness. Even though Andrea and Emily both seem to disapprove of Maeve's lifestyle, she's not going to let that ruin everything. She dusts it off.

As things in Maeve's normal life begin to veer wildly off course, however, she's pushed even further into Andrea's orbit. That's when things start really getting intense.

Just Like Mother is a sort of Rosemary's Baby for the modern age. It's definitely channeling those vibes and I'm not mad about it at all.

While I will admit, for me, this started slow, it did leave me with one of my favorite things: an evil smile on my face!

Heltzel's writing was engaging and I did like how Maeve's character was built out using both past and present perspectives. Understanding her past in the cult was pivotal to understanding her life path and choices involving Andrea.

I liked Maeve. I definitely connected with her decision not to have children of her own and some of the other characters reactions to that choice actually infuriated me. I feel like my strong reaction to those topics is a clear sign that Heltzel delivered these ideas believably.

This was super intense towards the end. After the initial build-up, once it starts spiraling, it really starts spiraling.

I feel like this would make a great selection for a book club, or a buddy read. There's a lot of solid discussion topics held within these pages. If someone is looking to deep dive, there's plenty to keep them occupied. I will remember this one for a long time to come!

Thank you so much to the publishers, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copies to read and review.

This one definitely kept me intrigued and I look forward to picking up future works from Heltzel!
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews · 170k followers
May 17, 2022

inseparable cousins maeve and andrea, along with several other girl-children, were raised by The Mother Collective, a feminist commune (*koff* cult) in vermont, where a group of Mothers presided over a house full of secrets where strange grunts and moans leaked out from beneath locked doors and boy-children were barely-tolerated pets.

girls born to The Mother Collective were well-fed, educated, and self-sufficient, and at the age of thirteen, each girl would

...receive the ritual and become a Mother. It is the greatest privilege, the only way to know love, says Mother with the red hair. It is the fundamental reason for life.

maeve never made it that far—following an incident on her 8th birthday, an escape attempt that ended in tragedy, the cult was raided, the mothers arrested, the children scattered into foster care. maeve was adopted, trailing clouds of trauma, and she spent many of her adult years unsuccessfully searching for her much-missed companion andrea before giving up hope.

until one day, andrea finds her.

andrea is happily married and professionally thriving; the ceo of multi-million tech start-up NewLife, whose wealthy donors have enabled her to cultivate a successful lifestyle brand around family planning and parenthood, although she has recently suffered the loss of her own daughter.

maeve, on the other hand, is resolutely unmarried and childless, struggling to live in new york on a fiction editor's salary, and "as unattached as it gets" apart from a friend-with-benefits entanglement with a local bartender.

Andrea's professional life was, admittedly, intriguing. Even in my childish imaginings I had mostly assumed she'd struggled too. It hadn't occurred to me that she'd be wealthy, accomplished, renowned, and loved. My cousin had made a real life for herself. What did I have to offer, after all these years? If my life was a lazy river, Andrea's was the Autobahn. I couldn't help but feel that all those years I was looking for her, she'd been busy leaving me behind.

but, far from leaving maeve behind, andrea is eager to resurrect the sororal intimacy of their childhood, and the women fall back into old patterns, their lives intertwining as easily as if they've never been apart. andrea uses her wealth and influence to help maeve, generously offering her a home away from home in her sprawling catskills estate, absorbing her into her life of moneyed ease, introducing her to her baby-obsessed friends and colleagues, offering maeve a safe haven where she can plan her next moves as her life back home begins to skid off the rails.

and there are only a few spooky and worrisome red flags marring the idyll. it's like they've never left. no, really—it's like they've never left.

Just Like Mother is a very modern brand of gothic horror, but it doesn't stray far from the genre expectations. there are a number of jump-scares and plot twists, and they're all predictable enough that you wanna sit maeve down for an intervention, but even though it's clear where all this is heading, it's a spooky-fun journey filled with creepy dolls and creepier humans, the veneration of motherhood and the inescapable burdens of the past.

and best of all, i now have a magnetic notepad that's gonna make me not even want to look at my to-do list, let alone accomplish anything on it, which is going to save me so much time! like maeve, I'd spent my life reaching for something bigger but wanting something easier. ignoring all my self-appointed tasks will certainly be easier.

creeeeeepy baaaabiiiieesss

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,641 reviews · 2,159 followers
January 16, 2022
2.5 stars. This started out really promising: creepy cult, creepy Stepford husbands, creepy dolls, creepy new age startup. But as it ramped up it got more clunky, and I never actually bought anything that was going on.

You don't have to give me something totally believable in a horror novel. It is a given that we are going to stretch the rules of reality. Our protagonist, Maeve, is just fine, it's her long-lost cousin Andrea who doesn't work at all. The two grew up together in a matriarchal cult but were separated after Maeve escaped and the cult was brought down by law enforcement. Maeve has built something of a life for herself, though she's rather aimlessly floating through it, but she's surprised when she's reunited with Andrea to find that her cousin is the head of a motherhood-centric startup, with a perfect husband and a seemingly-perfect life.

We never get a full picture of exactly how the cult worked (boo!) and as we get more into the obviously-going-more-than-it-appears-to-be startup we never really get to understand what it does or what the appeal is. Something about motherhood coaching? Something about bonding with your baby before birth by using a super creepy doll? As both the cult and the startup become more and more important to the plot as Maeve gets more intwined with Andrea, everything just gets more blurry and the raising of stakes just fell flat for me. It's unclear what all of this is that Andrea cares about so much.

I was willing to go with it and was even speeding through it for the first 2/3 or so. But oh boy did it lose me in the last third. Each new twist didn't have me creeped out but instead reacting with, "Ummm okay I guess?" A whole lot happens, not much of it makes any sense, and it got less creepy instead of more creepy. I know a lot of horror has third act problems but here I never understood what it was all about. Like yes society is obsessed with motherhood and perfection but I couldn't see how this was commenting on that or playing with the themes.

I did read it really fast, though.
Profile Image for Allison (hiatus-playing catch-up) Faught.
323 reviews · 166 followers
March 1, 2022
This was a wild ride for sure! I’m not easily rattled, but there were definitely parts of this book that creeped me out and the ending is absolutely skin-crawling!
I really enjoyed the overall message of this book and found it incredibly creative how Heltzel portrayed it. There’s a lot of pressure and expectation of women surrounding life choices and I can appreciate the feminist undertones and message it delivers.
There are some gory parts of this book, so if that isn’t your thing you might want to reconsider reading this one.
There were a few loose ends I thought were going to be tied up by the end and a of couple instances I thought were going to be revisited or more thoroughly explained and weren’t hence the 4⭐️ and not 5.
I did thoroughly enjoy reading this one though and was actually really sad when the book was done. I had the hardest time putting this book down and I look forward to reading more from this author!
A big thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC.
Profile Image for Katie Colson.
676 reviews · 6,924 followers
August 25, 2022

This is the first time where my friends have rated this 3 stars and I'm going to give it 5 stars.

I had such an amazing time reading this book. What a wild ride. It isn't scary necessarily. It's deeply unsettling and eerie. The tension peeked and didn't let up.

These are things I've heard women say in my real life. The terrifying thing is that this isn't outside the walls of reality. I know plenty of women who feel this way and would go to this extreme if given the opportunity. It just gives a voice to the cult that could form at any moment but miraculously hasn't yet.

This is my type of literary thriller/horror. That's a very specific genre to fill but what can I say? the vibes were just ✨💖✨
Profile Image for Jasmine.
260 reviews · 280 followers
May 17, 2022
Just Like Mother delivers on all the creepy vibes oozing from its cover.

Since she escaped from the cult she grew up in, Maeve has built a fortress of walls around her. One of the only people she lets marginally close is her casual boyfriend.

Maeve’s quiet life gets disrupted when her long lost cousin Andrea, who grew up in the same cult, contacts her. Maeve learns that Andrea has made a successful career for herself in the lifestyle and tech industry. Soon, Maeve spends most of her time at Andrea and her husband’s historic estate, despite the general disapproval of Maeve’s single life from Andrea’s inner circle.

I can’t say much more than that, except things start getting super creepy and snowballing out of control for Maeve.

Suspension of disbelief is a must when reading this book. The plot gets pretty wild and makes one wonder how someone can be so oblivious. I don’t mind books that lean toward the dramatic side, so it didn’t take away from enjoyment of this novel.

The writing style is very engaging, making this a quick read. Maeve’s voice instantly captured my attention.

A heads-up that this book has a lot of spice and open-door scenes.

Overall, I had fun with this one and will definitely read future books by the author.

CW: for everything associated with cults.

As a total aside: this book reminds me of Cher’s iconic 90s interview.

Jane Pauley: “You said, ‘a man is not a necessity. A man is a luxury.’”
Cher: “Like dessert, yeah. A man is absolutely not a necessity.”
Jane Pauley: “Did you mean that to sound mean and bitter?”
Cher: “Not at all! I adore dessert, I love men. I think men are the coolest. But you don’t really need them to live. My mom said to me, ‘you know sweetheart, one day you should settle down and marry a rich man.’ And I said, ‘Mom – I am a rich man.’”

Thank you to Tor Nightfire for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for JaymeO.
410 reviews · 307 followers
April 10, 2022

Anne Heltzel has given a frightening meaning to this term associated with female empowerment and caretaking.

Maeve is born into a cult called The Mother Collective, a Vermont based commune with a fanatical perspective on motherhood. She and her older cousin Andrea are tightly bonded and make a pact never to be apart from each other.

When Maeve hears strange noises coming from a locked room in their house, her curiosity gets the best of her. After she discovers what the MOTHERS have locked in the room, she escapes the commune with BOY, the only male child.

Years later, Maeve and Andrea reconnect after matching on a DNA website. Surprisingly, both women have been living in New York. However, while Maeve has been struggling to make ends meet as a book editor, Andrea has made a fortune in the tech and fertility industry. By the time Maeve learns more about Andrea’s business and true interests, it may be too late to escape!

This book can best be described as The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Stepford Wives.

The plot has a dark dystopian quality that will leave you very unsettled. I was intrigued by the misandry aspect, but do wish that more time was spent in the past timeline learning about the cult. The creepy grief dolls that Andrea invents are terrifying. Just look at that amazing book cover!

The plot kept my interest, despite the very predictable twists. I also have a few issues with believability, but this book still intrigued me with every flip of the page.

Please note the trigger warnings, as this book may not appeal to everyone.

Trigger warning: Cults, rape

Expected publication date: 5/17/22

3.5/5 stars rounded down

Thank you to NetGalley and Jordan Hanley from Macmillan-Tor/Forge Publishing for the widget of Just Like Mother in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ghoul Von Horror.
790 reviews · 214 followers
June 6, 2023

TW: death of a child, gaslighting, pregnant drinking, sexual harassment, toxic relationships, abuse, miscarriage, suicide, attempted murder, rape, abortion talk, death of a child

About the book: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…
Release Date: 05/17/2022
Genre: Cult horror
Pages: 320

What I Liked:
• The cover is creepy but pretty
• The plot sounded interesting
• Book is very easy to read

What I Didn't Like:
• Micah ew
• No surprises in the book
• How naive Maeve is
• The ending
• Rip off of Rosemary's Baby

Overall Thoughts:

Micah didn't seem too bad in the car but after the baby talk with Maeve he's pure evil. And now Emily is crazy.

We can retire "drink the kool-aid" now? It's a terrible thing to say about people who were murdered.

By the time you know that Andrea mentions her baby she lost you kind of know that she is going to ask Maeve to help her have a baby.

By the 30% mark you kind of know what's going on.

Maeve is so completely confusing. She spends 20 years searching for her cousin and when she finds her she acts as though she's some annoying person. She gets excited when they stop texting even saying she won't hang on every word Andrea says like Emily does. What happened to the excitement she had to reconnect with her?

So Ryan dies in a mysterious fire which is quoted as being burned from the top down, but somehow they're able to wheel him out and he still has a body left and his shoe flies out. Which I think they would have put him in a body bag not just a sheet over him but whatever. Maeve then proceeded to drive around town not knowing what to do because she's rented her apartment to some Airbnbers. She makes out like she doesn't have a house but she does just go back to the house after your Airbnbers leave and remove your ad. You can go stay in a hotel until then. You still have a place to live and you have money to pay your rent right now and you have a job coming up. I don't know why she thinks she has nowhere else to go.

I think it's disturbing how Maeve isn't weirded out by Tyler's stalker ways. They met and hung out 1 time and he keeps calling and texting. She never questions how obsessed he is with her that it borders on stalker like.

It is grating on my nerves how a naive Maeve is. She just lets everybody tell her what to do and goes with it. She even acknowledges red flags and STILL ignores every single one of them. I find that annoying and frustrating.

What happened to Maeve's apartment? Us there still airbnb people in it? Doesn't she clean when they check out? Does she answer if the have problems? Did she lose the apartment?

What is the timeline of Tyler and her seeing each other? In chapter 24 she mentions seeing him for 2 months and then a few pages later she says she's not going to rush Tyler into seeing his place - it's only been a week it would be weird if he was spilling all his secrets this early on. A week of what? 2 months is too early to want to see where a dude lives? It's not! It's very suspicious. She then let's Tyler tie her up, hears the door open & close and he doesn't talk the whole time. No limits are talked about before being tied up. I knew where this was going. They Rosemary's Babied her! She's not even worried about pregnancy when he comes in her. Go get plan b! You could get pregnant, which is the last thing you want! Why isn't she taking this seriously?? Again the time line makes NO SENSE! Maeve has sex with "Tyler" and he leaves around 5am. She goes back to bed till noon wakes up and talks to Andrea. Maeve mentions that evening that she is helping with the retreat. Skip to after everyone has already went to bed Maeve pulls out a stick in her toilet that shows to Andrea that she is pregnant. How? How could a stick already show she is pregnant??? It's been like one day! It takes 6-12 days for a fertilized egg to travel to the uterus and attach. There is no way it would show she is pregnant. She's so stupid that she buys that it would show you're pregnant that fast. Is this women 33 or 15?

The cop coming to the house makes zero sense. Tyler was drunk and his breaks cut out so he hit a tree. Why would he go to Andrea's house? Tyler kept it all secret so how would they know that Maeve was at Andrea's house or that they are related just because Maeve was at a restaurant eating. They lie to the cop and say she is in the city.

Turns out Andrea is running a fundamentalist pro-life religion like The Mothers. The whole point of living is to birth girls and kill men.

The ending with the search warrant is so ridiculous! Talk about deus ex Machina. Rob takes her to the tunnel and she runs off. She says she can barely see but I doubt she can see at all since it's a dark tunnel, no light, and she has no light - so no you can't see at all enough to even run. It doesn't make sense for Rob to walk through the tunnel in the dark when he has a phone with a light on it. Maeve manages to find Micahs knife, cut herself free, get his phone, get the flashlight app open on a phone that's not hers (I have to struggle to get mine open and I've had my phone for a year) and blind him - all without Rob knowing she has the phone. "With that, I shone the flashlight bright in his face, bright enough to make him blink, startled, and to illuminate all I needed." The next page she says that she's now using the home locked screen to show where she is going. What happened to using the flashlight? Also how is the phone still working? Micah mentioned that the battery case he had only gave him an extra day of battery so he's only been dead a few days then?

We finally figure out why Andrea hates Maeve so much. It's because Maeve left with the boy and didn't come back. She had the cult people arrested, breaking up Andrea's family. I find it hard to believe that an eight-year-old could drive a car without adjusting the seat or anything or even reaching the pedals and seeing over the wheel. There's just no way.

The mothers somehow manage to overrun all of the police and kill them. Like how? Did two cops only show up and didn't have guns?

We find out that really she's 27 weeks pregnant and she never noticed she didn't have a period for 3 months??? She then decides to give the babies to a single working mother. Why would anyone do that. Being a single parent to one child is stressful enough but two babies? And then after Maeve is so dead set on not having children the book fucking ends on her being pregnant!!! Plus her kids were given to a woman that is working with The Mothers 🤦🏻‍♀️

Final Thoughts: This book just puts the nails in the coffin that women choose to ignore the alarming things that people do as not to bother people. Maeve reminded me so much of Rosemary from Rosemary's Baby. The way she just takes EVERYTHING at face value. Ah.

Book turns into everything I thought it was from page 10.

That ending... This book... No. No.

IG | Blog

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for this advanced copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,834 reviews · 427 followers
July 8, 2023
There was so much wrong with the story. No, not the writing. The dang jacked-up creep factor of a cultish mother cult that Anne Heltzel gave us as readers.

In less than 50 pages, I was already drawn into how messed up the book was. From spider nests to fake babies... This could easily be a series novel, especially with that ending.

The narrative style makes you wonder if you may also be drug-induced and loopy at times. Heltzel captured this feeling perfectly.

Unanswered questions and things I wanted more of: More about these babies. I wanted a lot more details about the dolls. More information about Mae's job situation and what went down. What happened to another patient in the psych ward? I wanted to know the identification of the "watcher." I also wish the chapters would show the difference between the past and present timelines.

The last third of the book on this ARC version seemed to be a bit less thoroughly edited than the rest, but it wasn't overly distracting, and something that I am sure will be rectified when the final version is released.

Overall, this was intense and totally messed up brilliantly. I want a series of how wide this net encompasses. That could be a lot of fun to read about.

Andrea and Emily were well-voiced in the story; I wanted more about Emily's development. There were many hints about the mysteries that could be mostly easily solved, but it didn't detract from the enjoyment of seeing them unfold for Maeve.

4.5 Stars rounded up to 5.
Profile Image for Nicole.
495 reviews · 161 followers
February 16, 2022
I thought this book was just ok pretty much throughout the whole thing until the end. I really enjoyed the ending and the slight twist that it had.

Maeve and her cousin Andrea were part of a cult. They escaped when they were little and haven’t seen each other since. Years later, Maeve is living in New York City. She has a great job and really worked hard to rebuild her life.

Maeve reconnects with Andrea and is overjoyed to be with her again. She soon starts spending time at Andrea’s mansion in the Catskills. Andrea has made tons of money with her fertility company. She and her friends disagree with Maeve’s single, childless life.

The more time Maeve spends with her cousin, the more she feels so something isn’t right. Is history about to repeat itself?

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this arc in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,427 reviews · 35.2k followers
May 8, 2022
Maeve and her cousin, Andrea were raised by a group of women, “Mothers" on a commune. That is until one night when Maeve flees the commune with BOY. Leaving both the commune and Andrea behind. But Maeve and Andrea find each other again after being matched by a DNA website. Maeve is an editor who keeps others at arm’s length. Andrea is a successful woman working in the technology and fertility industry.

They soon reconnect and Maeve finds herself immersed in her cousin's life and when Andrea asks a question of her, Maeve is unsettled. When memories begin bubbling to the surface, she must face that the past might not be as terrorizing as her present.

I did feel that insta love with this book that others found. I found it to be an okay read from beginning to end. I often wondered if I was reading the same book that others had read. We can't love them all, and this was the case with this book. I listened to the audiobook and had a copy of the book on kindle so I could dive in to either when I wanted.

I would put this in my good not great pile. Enjoyable but left me wanting more. The creepy factor fell short for me.

Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire and NetGalley and Macmillan Audio who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,981 reviews · 1,991 followers
May 19, 2022
Real Rating: 3.5* of five, rounded down because Maeve is so irritating to me


My Review
: The opening scene...Maeve, locked in a closet (!), hearing hideous screams of agony and being quietly comforted by her cousin Andrea as they go on and on, had me riveted. And that is that! No more folk-horror goodness.

All the momentum drained out of the story for me as we went from following her child-self to the chase narrative laid on for adult Maeve. The reason? I don't like adult Maeve. She's either a bit simple or she's got The Most Trusting nature ever plopped in a human being. Either way I want to shout at her, shake her until the missing connections in her brain click together, until she sees the simplest manipulations are being used on her with appalling regularity and success.

In the story universe, Maeve is one of the girl children in The Mother Collective whose purpose is to control matrilineally all the money and power that men have always controlled. They're using that power and wealth as men always have, to oppress and abuse their opposite numbers. Maeve's rescued/kidnapped by the Patriarchy at the ripe old age of eight and, unsurprisingly, is a Survivor and PTSD sufferer for the rest of her life.

When we rejoin her first person narrative, she's a never-was in her thirties, making her meager crusts of bread as a fiction editor. She's naturally quite wary of relationships, having very few...until Andrea comes back into her life. Andrea, her cousin from childhood, is fabulously wealthy and living a dream life as the big boss of a fertility start-up.

If you've read horror novels, you pretty much know what's coming.

It occurs, over the course of some thirty chapters. I'd say if you don't already have a grasp on the end of the book it will come as a shock to you. It did not do so to me. I was along for the ride, though, because I started to want this idiot woman Maeve to suffer some more right here in front of me as Andrea manipulates and sets her up.

The actual ending of the book was pretty clearly telegraphed from the start. I kept hollering at Maeve, "just LOOK AT ANDREA for ten seconds and you will see it!" But she didn't, and I began to suspect her intelligence truly was subnormal.

When, at around the half-way mark, Maeve's friend-with-benefits pays one hell of a price for her vague, unconnected relationship to life, I was ready to say "sayonara." I decided to do something I don't usually do: I read the epilogue. There was another vile w-bomb aimed by Maeve, there was a moment of clarity for Maeve, and there was something so deeply schadenfreude-inducing that I had to get there step by step.

This is a horror novel for those, like me, who aren't in the Cult of Mother, and whose belief in the goodness of Woman is so frayed and chopped that it can no longer be discerned from a streak of extra-dark dirt etched on my skin. I think Author Heltzel has created a dark, dreadful mirror of the life men have forced, and continue to force, women to lead. There is nothing innate in the desire to Mother someone for many women. Uteruses are not always the only important organ in a woman's body, and her existence should never be presumed to revolve around that organ's use in any way.

If you can read this book and not see that the nightmare is very real, and that its fictionalization is merely cosmetic, then you're at Maeve's level. I don't think I know many folk like that. But if one reads this: Go back and look carefully at every decision Maeve makes. What that will tell you is all you need to know.
Profile Image for Erin Clemence.
1,112 reviews · 324 followers
March 6, 2022
Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication date: May 17, 2022

*infertility, child loss, S&M sex and rape featured*

Anne Heltzel’s new novel, “Just Like Mother” is creepy and twisted, and reminded me of “The Handmaid's Tale(in reverse).

Maeve hasn’t seen her cousin Andrea in years, ever since she fled the matriarchal cult they were both living in. Now, many years later, Andrea reaches out and, desperate for reconnection and to make amends, Maeve agrees to meet. Andrea is now the super successful head of a tech company, married to her doting husband, Rob, and living in a huge mansion. When Maeve’s life starts to fall apart, Andrea takes her in, no questions asked. However, Maeve quickly realizes that Andrea is not the person she claims to be, and that she is keeping deep, dark, perverse secrets that she will go to any length to protect.

“Mother” is told from the perspective of Maeve, both in present day and in the past, when she was living with Andrea, in fear and wary of men, being raised entirely by a group of females who identified themselves as “Mothers”. Maeve’s childhood recollection of her time spent in the cult was eerie, and when she casually referred to the females in her life based on their identifying marks (“Mother with the blond hair”, “mother with the lazy eye”), it sent chills up my spine. Immediately, I empathized with young Maeve and her compatriots, who lived a life so far from normal it was both disturbing and terrifying.

I could not put this novel down, and each page was more engaging than the last. When Andrea and Maeve reconnected as adults, it was bittersweet and emotional, and yet there were hints that something was “off” about the successful Andrea and her followers. “Mothers” builds the tension from the first page, and when the ending comes, it is unexpected and tense, leaving the reader in a state of shock.

“Mother” is Heltzel’s third novel, but it is the first novel I’ve read by her. If this is any indication of her level of creativity and writing prowess, I am not going to let another one of her novels slip by. I loved everything about this utterly haunting, cult novel, which turns the idea of feminism on its head, revealing a deeply disturbing dark side to femininity and reproduction.
Profile Image for NILTON TEIXEIRA.
896 reviews · 304 followers
July 27, 2022
3.5 stars.

Look at that cover! It’s creepy, right?
I could not resist getting a copy.
This was a great ride, after all.
I thought that the plot was great and the writing was dry gripping.
The opening of book was terrific and got me hooked right away.
The structure is good, although I wished that there were more chapters about the cult, and alternating chapters clearly identifying “then” and “now”.
There were some really good creepy moments but it lacked the element of surprise, as I found a bit predictable.
I found the creation of A.I. dolls brilliant, but unfortunately it was not the main event.
There isn’t enough information about what really happened in the cult, and we learned a bit during the last 25%.
The last part became a bit crazy and unbelievable, but overall I had a great time reading this book.
For the concept, entertainment level and for keeping my interest from the beginning until the end, I give it 5 stars.
This is a very fast read, because it’s very gripping, well paced and the writing is very simple.
This book had a great potential for being a terrific dystopian story, if the author wanted to take that direction.
Profile Image for Brandon Baker.
14 books · 4,633 followers
June 23, 2022
Wow 😅 Very creepy and messed up.
A very unique cult horror!
Profile Image for Rachel.
376 reviews · 178 followers
July 14, 2022
I don’t know if this was the right book to read so soon after Roe v Wade was overturned, but it certainly succeeded in making the story even more uncomfortable and creepy. I would actually rather have to be Mia Farrow’s character in Rosemary’s Baby than this. Eek! If you’re into fictional books about cults, I would recommend. If you find dolls creepy, I would probably not recommend. But then again the cover has one on it so it’s hardly a surprise and if you still pick it up, that’s on you I guess.
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
21 books · 4,868 followers
January 27, 2023
JUST LIKE MOTHER by Anne Heltzel (Adult Horror debut)
Release Date: May 2022
General Genre: Adult Horror, Thriller
Subgenre/Themes: Domestic drama, cults, psychological, Motherhood
Writing Style: Intricately plotted, fast-paced, reads-like-a-thriller

What You Need to Know: Maeve and Andrea are cousins, practically twins, they resemble one another and they're very close. They grew up in a radically feminist cult. During a tragic, harrowing event, Maeve escapes and is adopted into a normal family. Many years later, Maeve still thinks about Andrea and searches for her. Suddenly, they are reunited and Maeve learns about what Andrea has been up to all the time they've been apart.

My Reading Experience: This book is a wild ride. It begins with a flashback snapshot of Maeve's childhood in some kind of cult-the details are muddy. It was tough for me to settle in, I assumed the whole book would be this vague, disjointed POV. Then we slide into a new narrative of Maeve's present-day adult life and it felt like reading a fast-paced thriller. I loved that transition. Peppered throughout are more flashbacks to this cult that become progressively more detailed but it was never enough to be quite honest. More on that in a moment.
Maeve is an interesting, complicated character. I liked her. She's not like me in a lot of ways, so I couldn't relate to her on that kind of level but the author is so intimate with sharing Maeve's vulnerabilities and emotions with the reader, that I felt connected to her. I invested. There's a surprising amount of sex scenes in this book, no complaints from me, sex and romance are one of my favorite ways authors bring the characters to life, creating real people.
Once this book leans into the horror, it steamrolls toward an epic climax and a startling conclusion. There were so many times I updated my reading progress after a key reveal desperately wanting to talk about what was happening with people who have read it. I love that feeling.
My only disappointment was that the cult, the Mother Collective, wasn't fully revealed. There's enough information gathered during the course of the whole story to have a very basic understanding of what it was and what they did but it wasn't enough for me. I feel like in order to *fully* suspend disbelief for all of the unhinged behavior, I longed for more cult details. The leadership, practices, lifestyle--it was cloaked in shadow, the author skirting around the edges of it the whole time. It was maddening. I asked a few people I knew who had read this book, "Do we ever know? Is the cult explained?" We could have used one more flashback with some of this fleshed out and I would have been more satisfied. All of that to say, I was thoroughly entertained by this story. I enjoyed every, single minute. I devoured everything Heltzel gave us. A gripping, jaw-dropping descent into depravity centered on one woman's harrowing involvement with insane, radical feminism gone off the rails.

Final Recommendation: Highly recommend this book to horror readers who enjoy reading about creepy cults, horror involving the female experience, psychological horror, gaslighting, mystery, toxic relationships (seeing all the red flags), and big moments of terror.

Comps: Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. The Apple TV+ show "SERVANT", The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie, The Push by Ashley Audrain

*potentially triggering: Infertility, graphic death of a child, child abuse, pregnancy, cult trauma
Profile Image for Samantha Martin.
235 reviews · 46 followers
February 17, 2022
Trigger Warning: This book references unsafe sexual situations and sexual abuse.

Reading this book felt like I was being trolled by the author. "They like cults, right? And creepy dolls? And really raunchy sex? And violence? And weird pseudo feminism? and Murder! Of course Murder!!" It's a buzz word soup of total nonsense. There is nothing thrilling about this thriller, the characters are flat and uninteresting, the "cousins" who escape the Mother Cult decide never to speak about it (and thus we never actually learn much about the cult itself, just vague references to how bad it was.) The Cult is about Mothers who have Girls because Boys are bad, and only used for procreating. So womanhood is powerful, but defined by having babies, and if you're not having babies in this cult, you're gonna get murdered or impregnated. And somewhere in here there are creepy dolls used for therapy. I hated all of it, and I read it to the very end so that you wouldn't have to. It doesn't get better, and yes, the sex scenes are gratuitous, problematic, and verging on incredibly bad literotica. What did this novel want to be? And how did it get here?
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,748 reviews · 5,287 followers
December 11, 2022
On one hand, I still can't put my finger on what is inherently "wrong" with this book for me, aside from having predicted every single twist pretty far in advance.

On the other hand, this book singlehandedly put me into a terrible reading slump for over a week and I'm still having the hardest time figuring out why.

I'm not sure if I'll ever give this a full review, tbh. It wasn't a bad book, it just left me feeling incredibly conflicted and with a weirdly bad taste in my mouth. I originally gave it 3 stars, but after dwelling on it a while longer, have decided to lower it to 2.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy! All thoughts are honest and my own.

Representation: BIPOC side characters

Content warnings for:

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Profile Image for Cortney -  The Bookworm Myrtle Beach.
864 reviews · 144 followers
February 12, 2022
Great story idea! It was refreshing to read something different and unique.

I definitely wouldn't categorize this as "horror" though. And I really wish we had gotten into Maeve's childhood and the Mother Collective more.

Overall, enjoyable and quick read. Can't wait to see what Anne Heltzel comes up with next!
Profile Image for Constantine.
861 reviews · 168 followers
April 14, 2022
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ ½
Genre: Mystery Thriller

Maeve was born in the cult “The Mother Collective”. This cult has some weird and radical views on women and motherhood. Maeve’s only friend during those days was her cousin Andrea. Many years later, the protagonist is an adult and out of that cult. She tries to lead a normal life but at the same time wants to find her cousin and reconnect with her. They find each other but soon Maeve realizes that Andrea is not what she thought she is.

The story is told in two timelines, the past and the present. On Goodreads, the book is shelved as a horror book which should not be the case. Yes, the prologue started creepy and atmospheric but that just diminished right from the first chapter. I feel that the cover is the main reason for categorizing it as a horror novel.

The story is intriguing, however, I feel the best parts are the beginning and the end. All that was in between was just OK. I wish the author gave us a better picture of how the cult worked. I mean the dynamics of the cult were missing. We just know through the protagonist that it was not a good thing and some tidbits here and there. All I got from the story about the cult was that their goal was to have the ideal society with women being the ideal mothers. Something similar to the Stepford Wives which is about the wives instead of mothers. The other thing I was not a fan of was making the protagonist so naive just to build up the ending of the story and making it a surprising factor. Although the ending is good it was still predictable for me. Somehow it resembled the ending of Rosemary's Baby.

Overall, Just Like Mother is a decent entertaining thriller with a strong concept and a few surprises. Whether it is a horror story or not that will depend on you and what truly scares you. Make sure to check the trigger warnings before reading it.

Many thanks to the publisher Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire, and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reader copy of this book.
Profile Image for Colleen Scidmore.
386 reviews · 156 followers
March 29, 2023
Actual Stars 3.5

This is my second reread and tbh I wasn’t looking forward to it very much, but I wanted to finally give it a review so I figured I’d tough it out. But Just Like Mother is the perfect example of why you should sometimes try and revisit books later on that you might not have loved in the first place. I ended up enjoying it a lot more the second time around, I do have to say it’s still not a 5 star book for me but I do appreciate it more.

Maeve is a 30 something year old single woman living in New York City working as an editor for a book publishing company. She likes her life fine but doesn’t have any real attachments, no friends outside of her work life and her relationship status is more of a casual ongoing hookup with a bartender named Ryan.
As a child she did have an older cousin that was more like a sister that Maeve loved with all her heart. But Maeve and her cousin were separated when she was 8 because their household was actually part of a cult that authorities shut down. Maeve and Andrea were sent to different homes and they never saw each other again as children.

When Maeve was an older teen she started looking for Andrea and when she left her adopted parents home as an adult she even sent in a DNA sample to see if she could find her that way. But no such luck and Maeve gave up on finding the only family she ever wanted to connect with. But right before her 33rd birthday Maeve gets a notification that her cousin has been located and she even lives in upstate New York only a couple of hours away, how coincidental is that!

Maeve and Andrea renew their relationship and Maeve starts spending more and more time at Andrea’s Catskill Mansion than she even is at her own apartment. Maeve has come to rely on her as her life slowly takes a downward cycle she never would have imagined. Haunting memories from her childhood constantly invade her thoughts, and weird incidents start happening as she and her cousin continue to grow closer. Is her past catching up with the present and why does it feel like something is not exactly right with her cousins perfect life?

Maeve is a mess but in this case that is good thing because it helps make the story more believable. But what did irk me was the fact she was another MC that had a problem with prescriptions. It’s either drugs or alcohol on repeat and that has been played out a little too much, but it wasn’t overly brought up so it wasn’t too bad.

Andrea well I can’t go too much into detail but let’s just say she is a piece of work and so is her hubby. I personally didn’t feel the love vibe too much between her and Maeve either, that needed a little work.

Obviously you have to suspend belief for the story to work but the way it was written I could actually see it happening. So kudos to Anne Heltzel for some good writing. And she did an excellent job with the creep factor, it was definitely a bit eerie.
Omg and that ending shocked the crap out of me! Didn’t see it coming a mile away.

Cult books are especially hard for me to read so I’m really glad I gave this another shot. There is just something so weird about them , I just don’t like reading books that center around fanatics. But I let that feeling go and just enjoyed the story for what it was, a well written book with an interesting and quite sinister plot. I look forward to checking out AH’s upcoming books.
Profile Image for inciminci.
400 reviews · 74 followers
July 28, 2022
Reading Just Like Mother, the story of a young woman raised in a cult and lured again into a cult by her trusted cousin I was often reminded of Ira Levin's 1967 masterpiece Rosemary's Baby. Mother too builds up to a cult lulling a woman into its fangs just to betray her, sexually take advantage of her and ultimately exploit her fertility.
The cult in question is the “Mother Collective” which is a strange cult whose activities focus on the reproductive power of women, set to producing as many girls as possible and completely dismissing men, possibly killing them as unwanted byproducts like male chicks. It is interesting, to put it mildly, to observe that a whopping 55 years lie between the two works – but the discussion is still timely. What Just Like Mother adds to the discourse though, is the question of what feminism is and how with outdated views of womanhood we do nothing but harm ourselves.
I enjoyed reading this a lot, as it got more and more intense and disturbing towards the end - so much that it was like two different books, but in a good way.
Profile Image for Claudia.
340 reviews · 96 followers
February 12, 2022
A horror novel where the conversations were my real life nightmare!

Just Like Mother follows our main character Maeve who when she was a child grew up in a matriarchal cult. She was separated from her cousin when the cult was broken up and reunites with her after years of being apart. Things get weird.

Heltzel does a great job at building tension and will have you yelling ‘get out, get out, get out’ like any good horror novel will do. There are scenes of genuine creepiness but there are also several that fall flat. The flashbacks to the cult are actually pretty interesting and even her flashbacks to a childhood where her normal behaviors are mutated by being raised around it are rather interesting but in my opinion not explored enough to be completely effective. I think she wanted to focus more on the modern day creepiness but I think it would have added to character building to be more aware of what it was like.

I do not know why in my brain I thought there wouldn’t be creepy dolls in this book with a doll on the cover but I didn’t and please insert Jason Bateman Arrested Development gif of him opening that bag saying “Well, I don’t know what I was expecting.”

I think the book mostly suffered when it expanded its scope a little too wide. If you read this you can understand what I mean. It was most effective as a smaller entity of horror and more of a locked door scenario. The expansion caused more questions and disbelief then I think was really necessary for the story.

If you are a childless by choice person you will want to throw some people out the window and will probably have flashbacks to every single conversation you have ever had about having kids and the “you’ll change your mind!” attitude.

Overall though, it was an easy read (well when you are aiming for anxiety in horror!) with some genuine terror. I liked the concept even if it broke apart a little around the end. 3.5/5 rounded up.

Thank you to Netgalley for my ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Melki.
6,047 reviews · 2,390 followers
March 14, 2022
Men aren't like us . . .

Maeve and her cousin Andrea were raised in a bizarre cult that celebrated womanhood only as it pertained to a working uterus. Luckily they escaped, and the cult was disbanded . . . or was it?


This chiller is filled with characters playing manipulative mind games, and worse . . . far, far worse. I'd probably classify it as psychological suspense with horror undertones, and you should proceed with caution if violence bothers you.

The main character's naivete can be frustrating, as you can see what's coming a mile away, but it takes her hundreds of pages to catch on. But, then again, why would she ever dream that . . . Ooops! I can't say anymore.

Yeah, the whole thing was pretty far-fetched, but I sure enjoyed the ride.

Thanks to NetGalley, and the publisher for a sneak preview of this gripping and disturbing novel.
Profile Image for Alicia Bayer.
8 books · 210 followers
January 28, 2022
This modern horror-ish book reminds me quite a lot of Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives. It centers on a single, childless-by-choice woman who's a survivor of a very creepy matriarchal cult. She's pretty much alone in life and has always searched for the cousin who was like a sister to her in the cult. A DNA match finally reunites her, and the creepy story begins.

This is very much one of those stories where you want to yell at the protagonist the whole time to run, look behind her, figure things out, etc. It's very well written, even though you can figure out what's going on for the most part. I think you're supposed to figure it out as you go, as opposed to the MC who is slow to realize everything since really, who in real life would suspect any of this was really happening?

Parts of it were really weird and didn't make much sense. The cousin, Andrea, runs this super successful life coaching business where they make lifelike dolls to help women cope with infant loss or prepare for motherhood. These things act just like real babies and of course that's over the top creepy. But it doesn't really mesh at all with what's really going on, and that left me with so many questions. It felt sort of like they were just added for the creep factor, which of course they do give in spades. The ending also left me with one big unanswered question that felt like a plot hole, but I won't say what or it would be a spoiler.

All in all, it's well written and takes you on a very creepy ride. It's also the kind of book you could have all kinds of deep discussions about like whether society already has Mothers doing this sort of thing on a lesser scale to childless/child-free women, and whether men would really fall in line with this. And also, what the point of it really is. It's not like the Mothers in the book even seem to like it. But maybe that's part of the societal message too?

TW: rape, traumatic birth, miscarriage, child abuse, self harm, gore

I read a digital ARC of this book via Net Galley.

Profile Image for Helen Power.
10 books · 544 followers
May 23, 2022
Just Like Mother is an atmospheric, twisted story that starts off innocuous enough, but gradually evolves into a horrific nightmare fuel.

After an explosive first chapter, the novel is slow paced as Heltzel sets the stage for what eventually becomes a twisted and disturbing story. At first, the book reads like a mild psychological thriller, but the author gradually weaves in the terror until a horrifying and quite satisfying conclusion. The pacing reflects this, in that it’s quite slow to start, but the events gain momentum as the story progresses, leading to a book that no one can question being a true horror novel.

Maeve is a survivor from a cult, which was disbanded when she was only eight years old, but the damage is long lasting. The book mostly focuses on present day events, when Maeve is thirty-three years old, but there are flashbacks throughout. They almost read as an additional timeline, but they jump back and forth. The majority of the flashbacks are to when Maeve has already left the cult and is adopted by a nice elderly couple. I was initially disappointed by this - why read a book about a cult without flashbacks to the horrors of the cult? But Heltzel’s writing is far more subtle than that. Sure, we’re following Maeve after the “good stuff” has happened, but we can infer a heck of a lot from observing her time being integrated into normal society afterward. We can glean the gist of what happened to her from her reactions and interpretations of the world around her. This allows the reader to use their imagination, with just enough handholding and flashbacks to her time at the commune to truly traumatize the reader.

Even the author's writing and stylistic choices seemed to be designed to unsettle. For example, the present-day timeline is told in past tense, but in flashbacks, the author reverts to present tense. As a reader, this set me slightly off-kilter and added to my overall sense of unease.
This book has strong themes of motherhood and the patriarchy. This comes about in some obvious ways–not the least of which is the “Mother Collective”, which is the commune that Maeve was raised on, which clearly does not value the Y chromosome.

While the first half of the book was very slow paced, as it was setting the stage for what was to come, it was also quite predictable. There are several twists in the plot that almost weren’t twists. I knew what was coming, but that almost made it a more difficult read. The dread I felt was almost palpable, knowing what was going on behind the scenes, and wondering how Maeve would react after the big reveal.

All in all, this is a horror novel that explores some tough issues of motherhood and feminism gone wrong. While not particularly horrifying in the beginning, stick around till the end and you’ll definitely have some quality nightmare fuel to keep you up late at night.

Just like Mother book surrounded by blue blanket, white flowers, and a blue candle
Thank you to Netgalley for the arc to review!

This review appeared first on https://powerlibrarian.wordpress.com/
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My 2022 Reading Challenge
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2022: This book fulfills the "A book about or set in a nonpatriarchal society" category.
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