Title: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Author: Grady Hendrix
Publishing date: April 7th 2020
Publisher: Quirk Books
IPatricia 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.
CW: child abuse, child grooming, child self-harm, sexual assault, domestic violence, emotional abuse, dead bodies, murder, suicide attempt.
This book got me out of a reading slump, it was so engaging, I was completely invested and it made me feel so many different emotions.
I went into this book thinking the villain was the vampire, but the real villain in this story is the husband of the main character. I hate Carter with my entire soul, I was so frustrated and angry at the way he makes the main character feel small and unimportant, the way he gaslights her, makes her doubt herself, and tries to make her be seen as silly by her kids and her community. Honestly, all the husbands in this book are shitty, but I have a special hatred for Carter.
This book is not really spooky or atmospheric, the horror is a lot gruesome, there are a few really disgusting scenes that made me feel gross-out. But beyond that, the true horror in this book is seeing how the main character is treated by her husband mainly, but also by her book club friends at some points and by other people. She gets trapped in this horrible, scary, frustrating situation of knowing the truth but having no one believe her and then doubting herself and feeling silly, so she has to pretend that everything is alright.
There were so many sad and frustrating moments between the book club group of friends. Their friendship at the beggining is amazing, but it was so devastating to live the realization and the betrayal with the main character, because her friends will only support her as long as it doesn’t affect them and particulary the way their husbands and other people see them. And then when they finally come together again is just so bittersweet.
I think this book does a great job of exploring the roles white women were confined to in the 90s, especially housewives living in the suburbs, and how everyone saw them as unimportant and silly. While, at the same time, showing the privileges they had and that marginalized communities and, in this case, especially Black women and Black communities didn’t have. And also, how strongly white women held onto those privileges and how they managed to racionalize the choices they made to not lose them. Until finally something affected them too and they couldn’t ignore it anymore.
The ending of this book is bittersweet, realistic, and also satisfying. It shows how strong and resilient women can be even when they are faced against an actual monster. I can’t wait to read Grady Hendrix’s other books.