I don’t read a lot of horror, but I do like satire and I needed something funny to distract myself with during these times for a book club pick. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. There were scenes where I was creeped out completely, and others where I was giggling to myself. I definitely recommend this one if you like any of the following: horror, satire, or 90’s references.
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The summary, from Amazon:
The New York Times Best Seller
A Barnes & Noble Best Fiction Book of 2020
A Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist
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.
Buy The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires here.
Again, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. I don’t think the summary does it justice. There’s a lot more nuance to it. Patricia, a housewife in the south in the late 20th century, meets a new neighbor and (rightfully) becomes convinced he’s a vampire, responsible for the deaths of children in a neighboring community. However, the neighbor, James, has insinuated himself not only into her life, but into the lives and livelihoods of her neighbors.
Not only did this book have some seriously creepy horror scenes (nothing slasher-esque, but the sort that really get my skin crawling – rats and bugs!!) and loads of humor, but it definitely made me think about the way men treat women, the way women treat women, and the way white women treat Black women. Patricia’s rightful fears are dismissed because James’s endeavors benefit the men of her community, and because the deaths take place in a neighboring town where folks are poor and Black, it’s less of a concern to Patricia’s white neighbors (and arguably to Patricia).
I would have loved a little more background on vampires, but “realistically” I understand why we didn’t get any. The book is largely from Patricia’s POV (and never from James’s) so we could only get that lore provided with a lengthy exposition from him.
Overall, I really liked this one and am excited to discuss it further with my book club at some point. I had to give it a 5 star rating for exceeding my expectations and genuinely making me reflect.
Find out more about how I rate books here.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really liked this one – simultaneously funny and disturbing (both when it came to the horror and the comparison to real life). I’ll have to think on this one for a bit before writing a full review.
Book Club Questions
- Were you satisfied with the ending? Do you think it was a happy ending, and do you think the problem is fully solved – or is there a chance it could return?
- How does this compare to other books in the vampire genre?
- Had the deaths occurred in the same town as the book club members or in a neighboring white/middle class/affluent community, would the characters have reacted differently?
- Why was Patricia the one to figure out that James is a vampire?
- There’s a time jump during this novel. How do you think the years in between were for the characters?
Interested? Buy The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.
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