Bless Your Heart: A Review of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

This review discusses rape, abuse and racism. If these are topics you are sensitive to, please proceed with caution.

Title: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Author: Grady Hendrix
Rating: 5/5

“This story ends in blood.”

Patricia Campbell may have lived the exciting life of a nurse, but now she’s just a homemaker and manages the lives of her rebellious children, workaholic husband and dementia-ridden mother-in-law.

So when she joins a new not-book-club dedicated to discussing the trashiest of crime novels — rather than high literature — she didn’t expect that her fellow book readers would become her closest allies when a vampire unexpectedly moves into the small town.

Set against the backdrop of the late 90s in suburban American, strange things have been happening in the neighbourhood and black children are steadily going missing or killing themselves for no reason, and Campbell suspects her new neighbour, James Harris, is at the center of it all.

But Harris is a respected figure among the town’s, and friends and family start to turn against Campbell for her campaign against him.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is not a novel for the lighthearted. Hendrix is talented at describing gore and horror; there were moments in the book where I found myself clutching at my own skin so I could be sure nothing was happening to me in real life.

And it isn’t just physical horror, the violence in this book touched me on both a physical and mental level, and there are moments that were hard for me to swallow. Survivors of rape and abuse should be aware there is content that could be triggering for them.

I had originally picked up this book for its seeming humorous premise, but Hendrix goes beyond any vampiric trope and builds a realistic universe that takes a hard look at the latent misogny of the 90s and the systemic racism black people continue to face to this very day.

The protagonists of The Southern Book Club are multifaceted but still likeable. In fact, I enjoyed Campbell’s protrayal so much — and found her so well developed — that I was shocked when I found out that the book was written by a man.

I vacuumed this book up while I was at a three-hour-long nail appointment (slightly ironic considering the themes of the book) and I definitely annoyed the person doing my nails because I refused to put it down. During the moments where both my hands were occupied and I was unable to turn the page, not gonna lie, I was tempted to remove my hand from the UV lamp just so I could keep reading.

But even throughout its horrific moments, the book still found its moments for softness and empathy and there are twists towards the end that tugged at my heart strings. I came extremely close to tears.

I think I can safely say as the year comes to the end, The Southern Book Club is the best book I have read in 2020. If this is the last book I read this year, I’ll be satisfied.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix is available at Kinokuniya for $24.95.

This review first appeared on The Reader Who Came In from the Heat. Subscribe for more book reviews in your inbox.

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