Why the heck is WordPress constantly switching their editor around? I’m so confused. Anyways, I have good news and bad news! The good news is that we’ll be discussing a popular spooky book today, perfect for Halloween! The bad news? I uh didn’t exactly love it…
Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.
Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.
But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.
First of all, trigger warnings for gore, blood, violence, sexual assault, rape, animal horror, emotional/physical abuse, gaslighting, and more. I had no idea this book contained any of that stuff so it was quite the surprise when it appeared. The strangest thing about this book by far is that it’s pitched as Fried Green Tomatoes meets Steel Magnolias meets Dracula. Technically, it ticks some of those boxes. But I also feel so severely cheated by said comparisons.
We’re following this story from the perspective of Patricia Campbell, a woman who quit her nursing job to raise her two children while her rather arrogant husband worked. Add to that a difficult mother-in-law who has dementia moving into the house and the only thing that brings Patricia joy are the other ladies at her bookclub where they read true crime books. That is, until a strange man named James Harris enters the scene…and things may not be all as they seem.
Look. I actually enjoyed the Southern atmosphere of 90s Charleston despite having no nostalgia for that time. And because it’s the 90s, I don’t know if the author and some of the readers of this book thought that it was an excuse for the sexism and racism in this book. I have no idea if the 90s were actually like this (I’m an ’03 kid) but quite frankly, I was disappointed. All the Southern charm in the world couldn’t have sold this book for me.
I’m not sure if this is more my fault rather than the book’s, but I hated the tone of it. It was comedic and Southern and quite nice at first, and then suddenly there’s an extremely gory scene involving body parts being ripped off? This book has Steel Magnolias in the Goodreads description. STEEL MAGNOLIAS. I understand the comparison right up to the part where the humor takes a backseat to literal horror-movie level violence. And the sexual violence took me extremely off-guard. There’s one part that even involves a minor. I thought that this would be a fun vampire romp, with a dash of horror. But apparently I was wrong.
if you thought i was complaining before, ho ho ho, buckle in.
I sounded like Santa Claus send help??? Anyways, I hate the characters in this book. Specifically the men. It’s so weird because it’s as if the author was trying to create a commentary on the constraints of marriage and the sexism women faced, but he also dedicated it to his mom? So I don’t know what to believe considering every man in this book was either physically/emotionally abusive, or just plain arrogant. The women were never believed just on account of them being women. I seriously wanted to strangle every man in this novel. I don’t have enough hatred in my heart for so many characters.
And the women! People were talking about how much they loved the female characters and the general tight-knit community of the bookclub. I don’t know if there’s an book in an alternate reality called The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires because there’s a better chance they read that instead of whatever the heck this was. None of the women really bonded together? Like, they only stood by each other when it suited them or their husbands. Everyone’s answer to Patricia being like “okay, James Harris is weird and our kids are in danger, look at all of this evidence I have” was to gaslight her into silence. I’m not joking. It wasn’t until the end when there was about 10 times more evidence than the average person would need to at least consider the man a danger that the women banded together. And yes, it was a great ending showing how powerful women can be. But it was also contrived, overly long, and by the end I still didn’t feel a valid spark of friendship between the women.
Now that we all concur* that this is a book that absolutely failed on the whole sisterhood front, let’s talk about the slightly uh racist undertones. First off, I can’t recall a single Asian or Hispanic character in this book. Second of all, this particular vampire only really kills black children. And yes, sure, they lived in poor neighborhoods so it technically made sense. However, what doesn’t make sense is that the only recurring black character in the book, Mrs. Greene, is just a housekeeper. Not only that but she’s literally just used as a plot device to get Patricia and the other women to help. Eventually she joins their ranks but it never quite feels equal if that makes sense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of person who tries to judge and cancel authors and books just because. To be honest, I think Hendrix was trying to touch on a lot of issues between gender roles, race, economic divides, and all that. Unfortunately, he fell short due to the fact that there’s a LITERAL VAMPIRE taking precedence over the plot, so it all ends up feeling insensitive. At the end of the day, a white man really just wrote a horror novel about a bunch of abused, ignorant white women and one singular black woman trying to take down a vampire who only kills children of color.
*sure, you might not agree with me. however, you at least concur. you’d better.
When I initially finished Bookclub*, I gave it four stars. That’s because the plot of this book wasn’t necessarily bad. It was annoying at times, but it was also mysterious and the Southern atmosphere was so incredibly charming. I liked listening to it until about two-thirds of the way through but then the ending made up for it all. It was only after I finished the book and collected my thoughts that I realized just how subconsciously bothered I felt. I know that this is categorized as horror but it’s almost pitched as a satire or dark comedy. Truly, this was far more than I had signed up for. And yes, if you’re asking, I did uh finish the book. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked hard.
*just let me shorten to Bookclub. it’s better for everyone that way.
That’s it! I think that this is technically a good horror novel, in terms of plot. However, I hated the characters, the unexpected violence, and how some elements of the book came off as both sexist and racist. Overall, I’d give this 2.5/5 stars. I wouldn’t mind reading another book from this author to see if this was just a one-off but I’m still extremely disappointed. Tell me: have you read this? Do you like horror novels?