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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Commune or Cult?: A Review of Nowhere Like Home by Sara Shepard

Updated: Feb 8

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.


Welcome to the first post of February. The month of love and soon to be half priced chocolate. I don’t have a romance read for you today. If you want to read a romance review you can go back two weeks to my Old Hollywood rom-com. Or, spoiler, check back next week for my Valentine’s Day post.


As for this week, I’m back on my bullshit. We’re back to the tried and true. We gotta talk about a mystery today. A very special mystery because I was sent another advanced copy of an upcoming title.


Thank you very much to Penguin Random House and Dutton Books for sending me an advanced copy of today’s read; they aren’t paying me for my review, they just sent me the book for free. Thank you kindly for doing so, I adore anyone who wishes to send me books.


And what am I reviewing today? Please give a warm welcome to Nowhere Like Home by Sara Shepard. Nowhere Like Home is set to release February 20, 2024.

Book cover of Nowhere Like Home by Sara Shepard.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order. This is your one and only warning. If you’ve read any of my other reviews then you know I simply love to spoil the entirety of the books I read. Again, this is your one and only warning. I also must issue a quick content and trigger warning. This book features toxic friendships and some stalking. There’s really no way around either of these topics so I suggest passing on this book if either topic is triggering for you. Please also note that there are mentions of sexual assault and rape. These topics can be avoided, but please note they are in there. Let’s get to the synopsis now.


New mother Lenna is at her wits end. She feels her baby hates her and she’s doing just about everything wrong since he cries nonstop, she begins to believe her husband regrets marrying her and having a baby, and she can’t stop thinking about that bad thing she did two years ago. Lenna does the only acceptable thing in this situation. Pack up a bag or two, leave a cryptic note for her husband, and jump on a flight with her baby to go spend a week with an old friend of hers who she hasn’t seen in, oh, two years.

Woman with magnifying glass.
Lenna! You got some secrets and I'm gonna find them!

Rhiannon has invited Lenna to spend a week with her out on a commune in the middle of the Arizona desert. This commune is a safe haven for women. An off the grid safe haven where men are not allowed and this tight knit group of woman help one another raise their kids. Rhiannon has invited Lenna to visit and get a feel for the group, but this invitation goes deeper; she’s invited Lenna to stay for good.


But Lenna isn’t there for assistance with childcare. She’s here to figure some things out. Namely does Rhiannon know what Lenna did to her the last time they saw each other? AND! Does Rhiannon know what else Lenna did two years ago? Things are sketchy at the commune, that’s for sure. And someone certainly knows all about Lenna’s deep dark secrets.


You can tell Sara Shepard has years of experience writing mysteries. I had no idea where Nowhere Like Home was going half the time. For example, I knew there was a murder and I thought one character committed the crime only for Sara Shepard to blindside me and tell me a different character, one I never thought about, actually committed homicide. There are more twists and turns too. This novel kept me thinking. It kept me on my toes. Sara Shepard is cunning and clever.

Woman clapping.
Claps for Sara Shepard, everyone!

Though I must say, I call bullshit on the ending. The villain reveal does not sit right with me. Mainly cause I don’t think the final twist was set up well. The twist/villain was only referenced really once in a throwaway line near the end. I just don’t buy it. To me, it comes across as a last minute change or decision because the original villain was too easy to guess or something.


Listen, as I was reading the book, I had no idea who the final villain was going to be. I didn’t go out of my way to guess or fully figure things out; mainly, and I say this with love, because I had no idea where the book was going. I let Nowhere Like Home take me for a ride. One I enjoyed by the way. But that final villain reveal left me scratching my head. There were one, maybe two, clues pointing towards this person. I feel let down by this ending.


Especially considering I enjoyed the rest of the book. Nowhere Like Home has perfect pacing to me, it was fast, things were revealed naturally and at the right times. I also very much enjoyed the back and forth between the past and present AND changing POV characters. As a reader, I received a full picture of the story. That’s what I like to see!


Let’s move onto characters now. This book has a lot of them, and if I’m being honest, the women of the commune all blended together. If you asked me to tell you who Ann was, I wouldn’t be able to. Doesn’t matter though cause most of them aren’t relevant to the story at large, but when they do appear, I didn’t know them. I realize as I’m writing this, my lack of ability to remember who characters are definitely adds to my reasons why I call bullshit on the ending. I couldn’t remember who the villain was! They weren’t relevant enough to the plot for me to remember! That’s kinda sad. Both for this book and for me.


Anyway, No Where Like Home is on the verge of Too Many Characters Syndrome but the main people you need to remember are Lenna, Sarah/Sadie, Rhiannon, and Gillian. I want to talk specifically about Lenna and Gillian. First up is Lenna. She is a new mother on the verge of a mental breakdown. I found her to be really naïve and annoying at times. She’s intentionally very weak, and while I didn’t like her at times, I knew her situation, understood that she’s extremely tired, mentally broken, traumatized, and needs to go therapy; all this to say I did feel sympathetic towards her. Also I have to give it to Sara Shepard for creating such a weak main character, both physically and mentally, for a thriller novel. Someone like Lenna is not the main character I envision when thinking about this genre.

Kid nodding in agreement.

Now let’s talk Gillian. A character I have not even mentioned till now. I won’t say too much about her. I don’t think I can do her justice if I’m being honest. So let’s just say she’s unhinged and also needs to go to therapy. Spoiler, this is the stalker I mentioned in the beginning of this post. Gillian is such an interesting character though. Not only is she the one who ties all the others together, she’s an interesting look into how people are different in real life than they are on social media. There’s a lot that could have been done with the above topic and I wish Sara Shepard had dived even deeper into that; alas she did not.


There were lots aspects that I liked about Nowhere Like Home. As I said, the pacing was great, the multiple POVs gave me a large picture of the story, and I was a fan of jumping between the past and present. This book simply works. Except for the ending. I’m still calling bullshit on the ending. There weren’t enough clues to the final villain thus making the twist feel like a slap in the face. Other than that, I’m a fan.


With that, I shall bid you all adieu. I will see you all again next week with another great review. A great review for Valentine’s Day.


Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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