The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is billed as “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meets Dracula.” I have never been as immediately excited by the promise of such a weird marriage. While I didn’t find the book nearly as Southern in tone and setting as the title promised, it was still a fun read. Fun and infuriating and, on occasion, very very gross. I should have remembered how nasty My Best Friend’s Exorcism was in places, but I had evidently blocked that out. This book didn’t reach quite the same level of ick, but there was definitely some ick within these pages.
“Sometimes she craved a little danger. And that was why she had book club.”
Hendrix crafted a pretty great cast of characters. They’re funny without being cheesy. While the ladies who make up the titular book club have their ups and downs as a group and plenty of failings as individuals, they were easy to root for. But then you have their husbands. The condescension and misogyny wafting off every male in this book was infuriating. If I could have reached into the pages and strangled every single carrier of a Y chromosome, I would have leapt at the opportunity. I knew when the book opened with a 1970s definition of the word housewife as “a light, worthless woman or girl,” that I was in for a lot of chauvinism, and that proved to be the case. In spades. There was also a healthy dose of racism, and classism… just a lot of bad -isms. The Eighties and early Nineties were perfectly captured. I felt like I stepped into an episode of Stranger Things. The use of these decades as part of the setting are why the aforementioned sexism and other forms of prejudice were so enragingly believable.
“I’ve had three children . . . And some man who’s never felt . . . his baby crown is stronger than me? Is tougher than me?”
As stated earlier, Hendrix knows how to insert some serious grossness into his stories. The wave of rats is going to haunt my nightmares. I can’t really think of a worse way to leave this mortal coil than being engulfed by and gnawed to death by innumerable rats. Also, I could have lived without so many mentions of pubic hair. It was uncalled for and icky on an entirely different level from the gross-out horror scenes. However, while this book is firmly lodged in the horror genre, it wasn’t actually very scary. I think Hendrix did a good job writing a horror story that could be marketed to those who generally steer clear of horror.
“He thinks we’re what we look like on the outside: nice Southern ladies. Let me tell you something…there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”
While not a literary masterpiece, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a very engaging and entertaining read. I’ve heard some reviewers and podcasters list it as one of their favorite books of the year so far. While I didn’t love it to that extent, I did very much enjoy it. If you’re looking for something engrossing and different to distract you from the problems plaguing our world today, this book offers that escape.
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