The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Killing Vampires: “There’s Nothing Nice About Southern Ladies”

Amazon.com: The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires (Audible  Audio Edition): Grady Hendrix, Bahni Turpin, Blackstone Publishing: Audible  Audiobooks

Funny, scary, and so heart-warming. I loved every little bit of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. The story follows the highs and lows of housewife, Patricia’s, furtive investigation into the new man in the neighborhood. He’s charming, intelligent, and seems to have everyone eating out of his hand. But is there something more to him than meets the eye? Patricia seems to think so and nothing would make her feel safer than to convince her closest friends of this, the ladies of a Mount Pleasant book club. Ladies who are all interested in reading about crime, gruesome murder, and dastardly deeds. Will her friends believe her?

Grady Hendrix has created a vivid and deep world that stretches over the span of a decade in a small Southern town. Absolutely fell in love with the characters and their friendship.

Read on: spoilers lie ahead.

I was lured into reading “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” when it showed up on nearly every list for upcoming horror novels in 2020. Since I found myself spending a lot of time at home (along with almost everyone else), I decided to go on a bit of a book binge and pick up several upcoming titles on those lists. I’ll admit, it took me too long before I was finally ready to forge ahead into Grady Hendrix’s newest novel. I spent a couple weeks in the company of some wonderful southern housewives, riding the roller coaster of their daily struggles with family, chores, and friendship…as well as the supernatural.

Our protagonist, Patricia, is doing her best to juggle all of the duties that come with being a stay-at-home mother and housewife. Her promising career as a nurse was shuttered for what she assumed would be the more rewarding life of marriage and family life. But as her children grow older and her husband’s job occupies more of his time, Patricia begins to want for something more in her life. Little does she know that it will come with the friendship of her fellow book club members and their future adventures together. A disturbance comes to their quiet close-knit Southern community in the form of James Harris. Harris has come to town to take care of his aunt’s estate (the aunt attacked Patricia in an earlier horrifying encounter, biting off Patricia’s left ear lobe!). Having fallen in love with the people and small town quaintness, he decides to stick around and invest his nest egg in a few local businesses.

But not all is what it seems with James Harris. Sure, he’s well-spoken, charming, and immediately befriending almost everyone in town. But little by little, Patricia begins to suspect that he might be a different person…or thing all together. When children begin to disappear from the nearby black community of Six Mile, Patricia comes face to face with something not of this earth, something that she can’t explain but knows is dangerous. Her husband won’t believe her, nor the police. But maybe her book club friends: friends she’s spent years reading about murder and mayhem with will. Will they have her back?

In short the answer is: eventually. But there are some hard lessons to be learned over the course of the many, many years that these characters coalesce with each other. One is that friendship isn’t always as straightforward as it might seem. These women, who have spent most of their adult lives caring for their families, supporting their husbands, and cleaning their homes are faced with the prospect of lying to their spouses, endangering their livelihoods, and being thought crazy all for the sake of sticking up for one of their own. It’s heartbreaking to watch as many of them are too scared to be there for Patricia.

Grady Hendrix, the author, did a wonderful job tackling not only life in a sheltered 90’s Southern community, but also portraying the dynamic relationships between the white and black communities as well. Hendrix is very good at telling a story through the use of wit and satire, and even as we cringe and laugh and sometimes cry along with everything that is happening, it never occurred to me that anything he was writing was an attack against women or black people.

Since finishing the book, I’ve read a number of reviews from people who didn’t seem to understand the satirical nature of the story and were truly upset by what they assumed were racial insensitivities and gender stereotypes that were in poor taste. I think its even harder for people who didn’t grow up in the eighties or nineties to grasp the idea that the historical accuracies of the book, while uncomfortable, are completely realistic and better develop the plot and characters. Just because the book is a horror novel doesn’t mean that the author can ignore portraying the social norms of the times. Instead, I felt as though he shone a light on them and many of the things his characters say and do should be looked at from more than just our own perspective.

I will never know what its like to be a housewife; I am a hardworking individual that prefers a job and career over the idea of staying home day in and day out to take care of a family. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the difficulties that each of these women wrestle with through the course of the story, that I can’t identify with aspects of their characters (who are all unique and interesting).

For all of those people who chose not to read the book because they heard from someone else that it was racist and bigoted, I urge you to read it for yourselves. Hendrix is known for writing satirical pieces that educate as well as entertain. I think The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is worth the deeper look.

Next, I’m reading Emma Gibbon’s Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, a dark fiction short story collection. Emma is a friend and is a librarian for Maine’s Topsham Library. She’s received some incredible reviews already from NPR and The Ginger Nuts of Horror. I’ll have a review for her book coming next weekend.

Stay tuned,

KSilva

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