Review: Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

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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…


Andrea and Maeve are cousins who grew up in a cult called The Mother Collective until it was raided by the government when Andrea was eleven and Maeve was eight. They were split apart at this time, and it takes years later to find each other again. Maeve is excited to start this rekindled relationship with her cousin. She immediately sees that Andrea is a successful business woman, and when they start to meet, Maeve trusts her, even though they had not seen each other in years. This trust is put into the wrong person, of course, and in the end, Just Like Mother is a novel of psychological horror, family that is evil, and a past that cannot be outran.

Most of the book is a great amount of waiting and build up to the final quarter of the novel. This buildup is sluggish at times, and I wish that there was more of this time spent exploring their childhood in the cult. There are strong themes and arguments on motherhood, raising children, and contemporary views versus traditional roles on the fulfillment of womanhood through bearing children. I did not hate the scenes where Maeve and Andrea are arguing about having and raising children, but I wish this time was spent on their childhood at the cult instead. The roles of the men in this novel are also interesting. They are purposefully sitting in the backseat, obediently following their strong willed spouses while they dp most of the hard work. There is a reverse Stepford Wives vibe to the the actions of the men in this novel, like they are built to be a minor character in the lives of all of the powerful women. Each man in this novel is written this way, almost as a bothersome accessory. This is not so much something I see as a complaint as much as something I see as a very heavy handed foreshadowing. 

There are elements of Just Like Mother that are not as sharp as they could be, and there are times when Anne Heltzel gets a little deep into her arguments between the women about the pros and cons of motherhood. It does move a little slow through the first two-thirds, but the end turns very quickly, the danger ties everything together pretty well, and it’s a good novel.

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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