Title: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Author: Grady Hendrix
Page Count: 404 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 ✨✨✨✨✨
Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.
Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.
But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.
“Nightwalking men always have a hunger on them. They never stop taking, and they don’t know about enough. They mortgaged their souls away, and now they eat and eat and never know how to stop.”
If you don’t already know who Grady Hendrix is, you’ve been missing out and I am happy to be changing that right now. Hendrix first popped up on my radar during a random pop-in at a local used bookstore, where I found a copy of his Ikea-inspired horror novel Horrorstör and decided that both the synopsis and cover were too enticing for me to pass up. He’s released several other books in the last few years, and continues to make waves in the horror community with his blunt, compelling writing and his focus on pop culture in the genre. He’s definitely an author to watch, ’cause he doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
I didn’t know much about The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires before going in, because I like to stay relatively neutral before starting a book. Many of my fellow Night Worms, who are reading and reviewing this one with me for a book party – shout out & huge thank you to them! – reviewed and discussed this book over the last few weeks, and each time I saw something about it, I tried to quickly scroll by. I didn’t want to have something built up too much, and be left disappointed if I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as everyone else seemed to. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to worry – all the praise was absolutely justified!
Sometimes if a book has a larger cast of central characters, I find myself struggling to keep up with them. Remembering names in normal life is hard for me, nevermind in my books! Even though we have quite a few people here, I didn’t have trouble with any of them because they’re written in ways that their personalities seem to leap off the pages. Each character is so different from one another, but they’re brought together by shared similarities in their lives that seem to overwhelm their differences enough to allow actual real, lasting, close friendships to form. They lead different lives, have different husbands and houses, worry about different things – but they’re all mothers, they’re all members of a community, they’re all book lovers. Even those not within the core circle of characters are fleshed out and well-written, whether that fleshing out makes them characters that I empathized with and ached for, or hated due to their absolute condescending BS (I won’t name names and spoil anything for you, but if you’ve read it, I’m sure you know who I mean!).
Another big part of what I enjoyed about the book was the social commentary it seemed to have, relevant to things today even alongside the gore, vampires, and book club meetings – present, but without being too heavy handed or overbearing. A woman’s rightful place is to be a dutiful and subservient figure in the household, and she is solely responsible for things like instilling good values in your children, cleaning your house, and making sure dinner is served at a reasonable hour – right? Obviously, by now, we don’t all believe this to be true, and we don’t hold women to this as much as we used to. Still, there is often a sort of expectation that a wife should spend as much of her time as possible acquiescing to her husband, and being whatever he needs her to be. Reading about strong women that live within these expectations, and seeing them sometimes bend and even break underneath them, makes the rebuilding afterwards that much more satisfying. I won’t say too much, but wow – suburban moms are tough, and I loved the ending of this one!
This is a book about a book club slaying vampires, as the title suggests. But it’s also a book about family, about being a wife, about motherhood. It’s a book about forming friendships from unlikely circumstances, and forging bonds that withstand anything life throws at us. It’s about overcoming things that go bump in the night, but also overcoming societal expectations, social norms, and shitty marriages. It’s about being a woman, and women are badass. I can’t recommend it enough!
Hugest thanks to the Night Worms folks and to Quirk Books for sending this one over! Keep it on your radar & pre-order, it’ll be out everywhere on April 7th!
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