Review of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Things don't all work out too easily, but characters' courage is satisfyingly rewarded.
Hendrix explores Patricia's daily life as a housewife in the 1990s Charleston, SC, area, including her repetitive and thankless cycle of tasks. She's underappreciated and likely to apologize too quickly; her husband keeps missing the heart of events and their implications; everyone around her is overly concerned with appearances. She was once a nurse but now feels a little lost in her purpose, drifting along with a daily routine dictated by others' needs.
I had imagined that the tone of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires would be campy, but no. Hendrix explores trust, perception as reality, and paralysis and inaction in the face of danger. There's an undercurrent of insidious, creepy, at times horrifying events. (And enough disturbing creature-centered scenes to inspire the stifling of some screams.)
The men in this story largely control the women, including their abilities to voice concerns, contact the authorities, or take even small stands. This feels more old-fashioned than the era in which the story is set, but it's handy for the story. The male characters become easy to detest for actions and attitudes that are ineffectual, sometimes lazily destructive, greedy, and chauvinistic.
Race is an issue here; a heroic black character is reduced to begging white employers to help focus police and media attention on a terrifying child-focused crisis in the black community. This character is later key to bravely resolving the main and significant conflicts of the story when a mysterious stranger worms his way into the heart of the community and wreaks havoc.
Hendrix sets up the push-and-pull of conflicting pressures here: responsibility and risk; following gut feelings over worrying about propriety; the complications of choosing loyalty and action over turning a blind eye.
And let's not forget: vampires! The logistics of the vampire feeding and the feeding mechanism inspired open-mouthed horror as I was reading. Not everything ends up working out too easily, but courage is satisfyingly rewarded. A quick and consuming (pun!) read.
What did you think?
This is mostly a story about feeling stuck, and friendship, and listening to your instincts, with vampires serving mainly as a catalyst for change. Looking forward to reading Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism.