Title: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Author: Grady Hendrix
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Paranormal Fiction, Suspense & Thriller
Buy: Indigo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Rating: Donate It
Disclaimer: There are themes of domestic abuse, sexual assault, racism, misogyny, murder, and suicide. Also, mild spoilers.
Steel Magnolias meets Dracula in this ’90s-set horror novel about a women’s book club that must do battle with a mysterious newcomer to their small Southern town, perfect for murderinos and fans of Stephen King.
Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.
One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in.
Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong. (Penguin Random House)
“Steel Magnolias meet Dracula” said the summary of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. I was sold. (If you haven’t experienced the magic that is Steel Magnolias please stop reading this blog and go watch this movie now.)
I really wanted to love this book, I did. The title and the beautiful cover and the intriguing summary just sucked me in (pun absolutely intended). Vampires. Books clubs. Southern hospitality. Come on, what isn’t there to love? So. So. So. Much.
I have never been so mislead by a pretty cover and title in my entire life. I was promised some feel good southern comfort, the slaying of vampires, the banter and comradery of a book club, and maybe some Georgian peaches. Instead I got racism, Nazis, misogyny, and a whole basket full of very problematic elements.
The first bit of the book actually had me. I was intrigued, to put it simply. This book has an amazing premise and the plot is actually really good. The first bit of this book is attention grabbing and well developed. Hendrix did provide a refreshing twist on the classic vampire story, mixing it with elements of true crime and mystery that made it an interesting read. His actual writing is really good and one of the more redeeming aspects of this book, but it was what he was writing about and the way he wrote about it that I had problems with.
This book really did have me at the beginning. There was this scene with a raccoon and an old lady, and I’ll avoid spoilers, but it lost me right there. I actually had to put the book down and go read something else to stop gagging. Don’t get me wrong, I like gore in a novel, but I have never been so thoroughly put off by a book as I was during that scene. And it was only the first in a series of scenes that made me very uncomfortable. Alas, this was a book club pick so I soldiered on despite being completely put off.
So, let’s start with the characters. They really are what ruined this book for me. I cannot for the life of remember any of their names. Was it Slade? Slack? Slim? Was there a Jack? Jim? Mary? Sue? Ellen? I don’t know. I’m going to just go check the book. Give me a second.
Patricia! The main character’s name is Patricia. That’s how one dimensional and forgettable these characters are. I was honestly struggling to remember any of them while writing this.
There was so much about the main female characters that just irked me while reading. The female friendships made no sense. They are actually really mean to each other, often. You need a friend to be there for you Patricia? Sorry honey, all your friends kind of suck. The author tried to push the trope of the power of friendship, but it fell super flat for me. I never actually felt like these women cared for each other and were instead friends out of necessity in order to have a book club. The friendship felt more like a plot device by the author than something that actually drove the story. I came here for Steel Magnolias feels, damn it!
The women in this novel were extremely unforgettable. They were also so ignorant. I can’t point out how many times something glaringly obvious stared them right in the face and they just disregarded it. Come on ladies, be badass women and go after the vampire. I knew he was a vampire 300 pages ago, so should you.
And don’t. even. get me. started. on. the. husbands.
I know this book takes place in the South in the 90s, but it felt more like what I think the 30s or 40s would have been like for women than the 90s by the way the men treated their wives. There is a scene with all of the husbands and their wives that made my skin crawl. For a book all about women coming together to take on a vampire, they couldn’t even stand up to their husbands. They and their children are in literal danger and they just sit back and let their husbands dictate their lives. Again.
Not once in this book did it feel like the women got out from the heels of their husbands. They were just so complacent with their lives and it was infuriating to read. I know in real life this may be difficult at that time, but this is fiction and I, as a reader, have an expectation for some sort of badassery from these characters. Instead I was just frustrated with them for hundreds of pages.
Also, there was so much in this book that I felt like wasn’t handled correctly: racism, Nazis, sexual assault, misogyny, domestic abuse, murder, suicide, a possible child serial killer….I could keep going. So much was happening and so many topics were brought up, but there was so much going on that it felt like the author didn’t give anything its due. Were these supposed to make the book more suspenseful? Was it supposed to add to the horror element? If it was, I didn’t get it. It all just felt like misused plot devices. Like hey, this kid is obsessed with Nazis and might just be a serial killer, but lets just introduce it and then do nothing with it.
This book had the potential to be good. I LOVED this cover. I picked it up because of that and the name of the book. Also, it had a really good plot with a refreshing twist on vampires that was intriguing to delve into it. But it fell completely flat.
The book was dragged out longer than it needed to be, the characters were barely believable, it didn’t handle sensitive subjects well, and overall it was just messy. This is one of those books that looks good on the outside, like a present with beautiful wrapping, and inside all you get are smelly socks.
Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below and let’s talk!