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.
It has been so long since I’ve done this but I just read the most wonderfully unassuming book ever and I just NEED to share it with you all.
So a few days ago, I was aimlessly scrolling through my library’s catalogue when I stumbled across The Southern Bookclub’s Guide To Slaying Vampires. I had never heard of this book or its author but the title looked interesting so I picked it up. I didn’t even read the blurb or reviews or anything.
I expected a chummy little chick-flick style novel about Southern mothers in a bookclub together navigating life and kids and husbands. Goodness was I wrong.
So I was maybe 20% into the audiobook when I decided to look it up on Goodreads and was surprised to see that it was actually a pretty popular and well-liked novel. I was also surprised to learn that this wasn’t a chummy little chick-flick style novel.
So let’s break this book down.
The Writing Style Was Incredible
I’m going to start this review by saying that the book got me from the get go.
The first few paragraphs alone were interesting, funny and alluring. I loved how Hendrix was able to weave humour into Patricia’s almost dead-pan voice. She was relatable and said the most special things even when her life was in mortal danger.
I found myself laughing at even the most serious of moments just because her thoughts were really just so matter-of-fact and resigned but with so much relatable truth in it. Like who would be thinking about cleaning curtains when she’s off to save a disappeared child?
It Is Not What You Expect
Remember how I said I was expecting a chummy little chick-flick style novel? Yup. I was really wrong about that.
I suppose if you read the blurb, many things won’t come as a surprise. But I was completely unaware that this was also a thriller novel with a splash of horror in it (you really wouldn’t guess from the title, I’m just saying). So imagine my surprise when a cosy bookclub novel turns up with flesh eating rats and dead bodies.
I was so impressed.
It Was Very Well Balanced
I don’t usually like horror or thriller novels. In fact, I read The Other Mrs recently and it was a really crap book but I did get scared. I couldn’t read it at night.
But this book was different. It was very well balanced with humour, scary bits, family bits and girl power love.
It was really good in that it kept to the mom vibe while also keeping readers engaged.
It Was Only A Little Bit Tacky
A lot of supernatural books that also aren’t supernatural books end up feeling a bit tacky and fake. Like the supernatural characters end up being not believable.
I thought this portrayal of vampires was pretty good. I could see the influences from The Vampire Diaries and maybe Twilight too (though the author tried to pass it off as the ever intellectual Dracula) for sure. But it was a good one.
Of course there were many questions that were unanswered. Like how he managed to be in two places at once and what exactly he did to the kids (none of them fell sick the way Patricia did). But okay. I could give him a pass with this because the rest of the story made up for the slightly weak portrayal of a supernatural creature.
It Grated On My Nerves Sometimes
As much as I liked this book, one thing I couldn’t stand was how the women were treated in the novel by their husbands. I get that this was set in the 90s and that these were traditional, Southern women who were homemakers and were expected to cater to their husbands and kids. But really some of the things that happened were disgusting.
I particularly hated how often the phrase “You’re a housewife. You do nothing all day.” was thrown around. I find that so insulting. Particularly because Patricia was trained as a nurse and was extremely qualified yet her husband really belittled her in front of his friends, her friends and even their kids.
I don’t know, the book had a misogynistic undertone that I just didn’t like. At first, I was ready to excuse it because maybe the author was just trying to bring to light how terrible this treatment of women was/is. But then I found out that Hendrix is a man and then it didn’t seem so great.
I get a woman talking about it but something about a man using a book as a platform to mistreat women, even if they are characters, didn’t sit right with me.
The books we read should reaffirm the ways we have grown in our treatment of women. Not reinforce this idea that women are stupid or that they have to listen to their husbands and bear hurtful treatment because it is her ‘place’ or because of the time period. It wasn’t even set that long ago, please.
This was an easy five stars for me and easily one of my favourite books of 2020 so far. And I’ve read a lot of really great books this year so this is saying something.
I flew through this so quickly, it had my attention from start to finish, it was believable and not super tacky and it was just such a fun read.
I don’t know why this book isn’t gaining more prominence but I hope people discover it because it is a gem for sure.