- 404 pages
- Published in 2020
- Sociopolitical Injustice
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires stars Patricia Campbell, who’s life is that of any ordinary housewife–she cooks, she cleans, she takes care of her children. She goes to bed each night, exhausted, yet seeming to never complete her endless list of tasks. Her husband works constantly, her teenage children could care less about their mother, and Patricia is also in charge of her senile mother-in-law, who lives in their basement. Her only reprieve is her book club.
Patricia’s small town book club is made up of five women, all of which have a hankering for ‘trashy’ true crime novels. Each month, they share in their discussion about a crime that seems very far away–until James Harris moves in across the street. It’s very clear to Patricia that something is going on with James, and it certainly isn’t something good. When children in their neighborhood begin going missing, Patricia is sure James is the culprit. Yet, when no one believes her, Patricia knows its up to her (and her alone) to keep her children safe before the crimes get too close to home.
CONTENT WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires has been sitting on my shelf for at least a year…maybe even longer. I believe I bought it one year after Halloween, knowing I wanted to read it, but then I never really got to it. So, when I found myself pursuing my TBR shelf this week, struggling to find my next read, I picked it up by chance, figuring I could always throw it in my discard pile if it wasn’t good.
Let me preface this review by saying that I’ve been seeing a lot of reviews about The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires, especially with the time of year. Smart Bitches Trashy Books (which is one of my favorite book blogs by the way) reviewed this book back in April of 2020 and they had some very accurate points. It seems like readers love or hate this one–there are very few who fall in between.
That being said, I’m rating this book a 4-star read, so let’s get into why.
First of all, I love a good horror but The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires (could Hendrix have picked a longer title? lol) is horror in the extreme. You’ve got a woman eating a raccoon, then rats eating people, and then it just gets worse from there, honestly. The dog getting eaten by rats was certainly toting the line for me. While I’m thankful Hendrix let him live (because no book should let a dog die), I would have rather NOT seen that scene. Why couldn’t Hendrix have left poor RagTag escape to the bathroom with Mrs. Greene? The world may never know (but at least he didn’t die). As far as horror novels go, this one is pretty up there when it comes to the scariness factor.
Like Smart Bitches Trashy Books mentioned, I think the psychological horror happening in this book is almost (almost) worse than the actual blood and gore events. Patricia’s husband walks all over her and he clearly silences her in multiple chapters. Patricia has no autonomy and she is forced into her role, again and again. It’s no wonder that she becomes so interested in James Harris in the first place.
I think one of the things that Hendrix really did well in this book was drawing upon an ordinary situation for extraordinary circumstances. This book really makes vampires seem like they could live next door to just anyone–Patricia’s life seems so ordinary on the surface. In fact, all the book club ladies seem to have ordinary lives. They have cookie cutter houses and they interact with poise, but then behind closed doors, the façade is gone. Grace is in an abusive marriage. Kitty’s husband clearly cheats on her (which is actually mentioned at the end of the book), which affects her mental health. Slick’s husband is extremely Christian (and judgmental). MaryEllen’s husband has some kind of problem with the law. None of these husbands are the good, kind people that their wives make them out to be in public. In some ways, their psychological abuse to their wives makes James Harris not that bad–which I believe, makes it all that much easier for the women when the time comes to kill him.
Something that bothered me immensely was how Patricia’s husband, Carter, reacted after James was killed. Instead of siding with his wife, he still (STILL) sided with the men and asked Patricia if she might have any idea where he had gone–presumably so he could track James down. It’s at this moment that Patricia asks for a divorce and readers everywhere shout Halleluiah. There are a lot of books where I feel like the ending could have been different, but this book isn’t one of them. I’m glad to see Patricia freed from her husband and I’m particularly happy to see the courage each of the women mustered towards the end.
That being said, I’m taking off a point in my review for the horrendous graphic rape scenes in this book. While I think the plot of this book was spectacular and it was exceptionally well-written, I’m not entirely sure that some of these scenes needed to be as graphic as they were. There are very few readers who can stomach reading about the rape of a child, and I don’t think the book needed to be this graphic to get it’s point across. It was a bit much for me.
Overall, I thought The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires was one of the better horror novels I’ve read. It’s scary and jarring at times, which every good horror novel needs. Yet, it also has moments of deep psychological terror that bring another level of depth to the novel.
While this book was not at all what I was expecting, I really do think it is memorable. It was funky and weird, but somehow I know it is something that will be stuck in my mind for a while to come. While I forget many details in a book after I read it, I think I will probably remember some of the scenes in this one for a long time. That being said, I don’t think I’ll find myself re-reading this one. It was truly horrific at times.
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