It seems all too common for people to graduate high school and promise to never pick up a book again, as if all forms of reading are a punishment. Most people I know outside of my family, partner, Instagram, and this blog, do not read books.
I used to be like that too, I guess; far too consumed with my post high school “freedom.” And by freedom I specifically mean parties, drinking, and all of the other things you look back on and cringe about.
When I was young I read books all the time. I loved horror novels and mysteries. When my teen years struck, like many others, I transformed into a teen angst asshole, and because I hated school so much I started to see all books in a negative light.
But now that all of that is far behind me and since I have started reading again, I could never imagine going back to a life without books. In all honesty, I feel sad that I missed out on this type of happiness for so long.
I have Grady Hendrix’s “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” to thank for pulling my head out of my ass. In 2016, Grady Hendrix became my hero and I loved “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” with all of my heart. Since reading it I haven’t looked back. It opened up a whole other world of horror and creativity that I forgot had existed.
And since then, Grady Hendrix has never let me down.
After giving up her career as a nurse, Patricia Campbell marries an ambitious doctor and becomes a housewife and mother of two. The days are long, the children are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and she can never seem to do the whole “housewife” thing right.
The one thing she looks forward to every week is her book club, where a small group of Charleston housewives have come together to discuss the most infamous serial killers, as well as their homelives.
But when a handsome and mysterious man, James Harris, moves into town, the book club’s content shifts to speculation about the newcomer. Intrigued and ready for a little excitement, Patricia befriends James and helps him get settled into Charleston.
But when some local children go missing, Patricia suspects the newcomer is involved. With little help from her book club friends, she sets out on her own investigation with the assumption that James Harris is a Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy…
But what Patricia discovers is far more terrifying.
The title, “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires,” is a bit of a mouthful. But in such few words, it manages to inform the reader that this is going to be a unique take on a vampire story.
This novel takes place at the same time, (late 1980’s/early 1990’s,) and in the same town, (Charleston, SC,) as “My Best Friend’s Exorcism.” This also happens to be where Grady Hendrix grew up in real life.
In my opinion, not once was it apparent that Patricia was written by a man, and this was impressive to me. Although I don’t know what being a housewife or mother is like, throughout the novel I felt like Patricia’s first hand account was believable and very relatable. I loved and appreciated the confessions Patricia’s shares with the reader throughout the story, mostly about her desire to have been more than a housewife and her feelings of failure at her daily tasks.
When I was introduced to Patricia’s book club, I instantly fell in love with the entire cast of female characters, who all have big and differing personalities. Each woman adds a mass amount of purpose and substance to this story. They are all *crazy* flawed in their own ways, and each woman brings a special level of frustration to the story… But, oddly enough, you fall in love with each of them nonetheless. Not to mention Patricia’s hard working housekeeper Mrs. Greene, who in my opinion, is one of the best characters in the entire book.
When James Harris enters the scene everyone takes to him fairly immediately. He even has the group’s support after Patricia witnesses his extremely grotesque vampire form and violent feeding on children! Because she is reading so much about true crime, everyone suspects that Patricia is just bored and paranoid. In addition, James has already weaseled his way into everyone’s lives, houses, and pockets, as he’s started working with all of the husbands in town on a new business deal, and God forbid the wives go against their husbands. *rolls eyes all the way out of my goddamn head*
For the majority of this book, it is Patricia and Mrs. Greene doing the investigative work into James and getting themselves into some compromising situations. There are some really scary and suspenseful parts of this book that truly kept me on the edge of my seat! Perfectly descriptive but still fast paced, I was turning the pages like a crazy person.
Next thing I loved! The vampire itself is like no vampire I have ever heard of before. For the first time in my memory, the vampire is not romanticized at all, as it is a really disgusting creature. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s graphic, revolting, and sometimes the feeding aspect gets pretty nasty.
But this leads us into our next topic… Let’s talk about the triggers for a second. Full list will be at the end of the review, but there are a couple I must discuss in some detail.
I. Hate. Cockroaches. The word alone makes my entire body feel dirty and gross, and it makes me want to shave off all of my hair and take a bleach bath. There are a few scenes in this book dealing with cockroaches, the next one worse than the last, that made me want to scream out loud! I wanted to die!
Next, due to the location and time period, there are a few, (I assume,) at least semi-accurate aspects of this story that made me uncomfortable and often times infuriated.
For starters, the first group of children who go missing and die are from the neighboring African American community. Everyone from the book club, except for Patricia, couldn’t care less! As long as their family in their town is safe, they can’t be bothered! *pulls out hair*
Secondly, the women in this book are treated as nothing but simple and stupid housewives by their controlling idiot husbands. There is a certain chapter in the book that had me so angry that a couple times I just had to put the book down and give my clenched fists a break. I mean, I was heated! HEATED! (Can you tell I’m still a little heated? Haha.)
However, all of these things were an important part of the plot and were crucial to the story and character development. There is nothing distasteful about the way any of it was written, but it’s all definitely meant to make you feel something, and… well… I felt something alright.
With all of that being said, this book ends up being a triumphant tale of women fighting for their own space and voices, and coming together as a community, regardless of race and status. Once all of the housewives put the idea that their children are more important than others behind them, they all come together and really f*ck sh*t up.
I promise that in the end, all of the frustration is worth it.
My Rating: ★★★★★
What did you think of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires?
Have you read any of Grady Hendrix’s other novels?
Let me know your thoughts!
(Full list of triggers: rape, child abuse, sexism, gaslighting, spousal abuse, racism and classism, gore, rats, and cockroaches.)