Book Review: The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

  PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about a book club Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that...


PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about a book club

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020,  A book you picked because the title caught your attention, A book with more than 20 letters in its title

TW: sexual assault, domestic abuse, child abuse, animal death, body hatred/fatphobia, violence, pornographic content, kidnapping/abduction, death, blood, gaslighting, mental illness and ableism, racism, sexism/misogyny, classism, antisemitism, homophobia

From the time I first saw the cover of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, I knew it was a book that I would love to read. As a girl born and raised in the South, I love reading books set in the region. And I've been obsessed with vampires my entire life. Once I found out it was set in the 90s, I was sold. 

Patricia's life is drab. She forewent her career to be a wife, and now she spends her time at home with her two children and an ungrateful mother-in-law with failing health. The highlight of her life is a small book club full of an eccentric mixture of other community housewives. A book club that only reads true crime and horror fiction. After a few years of reading only horrifying books, Patricia finds her elderly neighbor munching on a raccoon by her trash bins, Patricia is attacked and bit by her neighbor, who then passes away. In true Southern style, Patricia takes a casserole over to her neighbor's nephew who has travelled down from up North in order to sort his late aunt's estate. From there, her life goes from drab to a whirlwind of crime and mystery that she's bound to solve. And her "friendly," new neighbor might just be at the center of it all.

First off, what the hell. This book was so enjoyable and I'm now bound and determined to get my hands on every single Grady Hendrix book. If his other titles are anything like this one, I am sold. For a book set in the 1990s in the South and but released in 2020, it does a really good job of calling out some of the more problematic issues of the time. Surprisingly, the novel brings to life systemic racism - bad things are happening to the Black and Brown children from the "other side of the tracks," and the law is doing nothing to help them. 

There are issues in terms of domestic abuse, misogyny, and weight issues. To me, a lot of these issues were drawn in satirically, but I also found some more hidden racism within the pages that didn't seem to be shedding light on the situation, but seemed odd and I didn't like it. Every time a party was mentioned, it would elaborate that the bartenders were "Black with white gloves," which I just found to be weird and pointless. It almost strayed over into a "White savior" scenario, but luckily moved away from that, and instead was about saving the entire neighborhood. There's also a very weird obsession with Nazis that was hard to move past, and honestly it didn't really make sense with the rest of the book, so I kind of hated that. And lastly, the gaslighting scenarios in this books were truly insane. In fact, the ridiculous ways in which Patricia (specifically) was gaslighted were more absurd and unrealistic than the actual presence of a vampire in the book.

Other than that weirdness, I thought the book was done so incredibly well. Each section of the book was divided up by month and that month's book club book, which I thought was very fun. I loved very much that this was definitely a Southern lit novel, but also had just the right dose of horror. And the whole "vampire" scenario wasn't the full-length of the novel, so I would say this book would also be perfect for folks who don't necessarily consider themselves fans of SFF or vampire stories. Instead, it's perfect for lovers of other genres because it's more Southern lit meets true crime.

"Sometimes she craved a little danger. And that was why she had book club." - The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix

Look, Patricia is a badass mom to teenagers who is fighting the patriarchy, stopping crime, and still doing all the stay-at-home-mom things. She is more than just a mother, more than just a wife. She's an incredible force and I love her so. She really reminded me so much of Evelyn Couch (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe), but better. Evelyn was an 80s housewife written in the 80s, but Patricia is a 90s housewife written in the 2020s, and that made a world of difference. I would've loved to see the gaslighting brought down a bit, and Nazi-obsessed child removed, but overall I truly enjoyed this book and can't wait to read more Grady Hendrix novels (this was my first!).

Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

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