Book review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Published April 7th 2020 by Quirk Books


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.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“He thinks we’re what we look like on the outside: nice Southern ladies. Let me tell you something…there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”

The first thing you need to know about The Southern guide is that it is not a comedy. It starts as one, showing the lives of simple housewives of a very small community. One can’t stay poker-faced when there’s a description of vicious sandwiches that have to be made once a week and frozen in order not to die by making them every day for 5 kids! Or a fellow housewife advising to vacuum your curtains when your mind feels restless. Such small funny situations invoked a lot of laugh out of me, mostly because all women at one point in their lives encountered something similar and can strongly relate.

But this small funny world of bright sunny South quickly dimms when our heroines faced with evil. And here’s the fun scary part begins.

Housewives are usually not taken seriously by their husbands. The carefree facade women create in order to make their husbands and children comfortable costs them a lot. Anyone who considers that a housewife is not a job is a hypocrite, and I feel no shame saying that because it is true.

“Why do you pretend what we do is nothing?” she asked. “Every day, all the chaos and messiness of life happens and every day we clean it all up. Without us, they would just wallow in filth and disorder and nothing of any consequence would ever get done. Who taught you to sneer at that? I’ll tell you who. Someone who took their mother for granted.”

The book poses a valid question: who is worse – a monster who sucks blood from children or men who are easily seduced by a gilded bait? Probably the first, because these are children this monster hurts, but what if men did nothing to stop it? Moreover, what if they prevent justice from happening because they believe in their superiority over their wives? My answer would be those men are the worst!

“We are men of standing in this community. Our children go to school here, we have spent our lives building our reputations, and y’all were going to make us laughingstocks because you’re a bunch of crazy housewives with too much time on your hands.”

The horror I experienced when facing sexism in this book is suffocating. I could feel the helplessness the heroines experienced when everyone abandoned them. But, at the same time, I admired the strong will of these women, who never lost humor even when facing danger!

“We’re a book club,” Maryellen said. “What are we supposed to do? Read him to death? Use strong language?”

Of course, the supposed Dracula was scary as hell, but he plays more of a symbolic role, like a devil whispering in the ears of those who are weak and easily seduced by fake glamour. He was the villain and, at the same time, he was not because men were the ones who allowed him to create evil.

“Once you’ve washed a man’s underwear you realize the sad truth about hidden depths.”

Overall, The Southern Book Club for Slaying Vampires is a delightful and bloody read. It is also terrifying. I would like to give credit to the author who has dedicated this book to his mom and all housewives:

“With this book, I wanted to pit a man freed from all responsibilities but his appetites against women whose lives are shaped by their endless responsibilities. I wanted to pit Dracula against my mom.
As you’ll see, it’s not a fair fight.”

Please read this book, spread its message, speculate about the issues it touches.
Vampires may be scary but some men are scarier.

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