Sunday, June 21, 2020

Book Review: The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires
by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me first address the 'issues' many reviewers who didn't like this book have. This is a horror genre book. This is a genre known for scariness, playing off extreme stereotypes, gory passages, and (usually) some sort of magical realism. If you weren't expecting that Grady Hendrix would: a) delivery just like he did on all his other books, b) use those genre tropes to his advantage, c) write a book just like promised in the blurb; then I'm sorry the problem isn't with the book, the author, publisher or the readers whom love it. The problem is with you. Just like those who condemn S&M activities because they aren't 'into it'; I look upon them with disgust and say 'you don't have to like it, or even be a part of it, but you should tolerate it's existence'. No one threatened your life or that of those you love to read this novel and it's existence is not hurting you in the least. It's a clear and obvious fictional spoof with horror thrown in to make it even funner.
For the record, I loved this book. It was exactly what I was hoping for a more. Gory, spine-tingling, and a chilling portrayal of the 'average housewife' in a upper middle-class suburban community. Which, for the record, is still scarier to me than fighting off a vampire; which is exactly the point Hendrix is making. The irony of those that don't get it is almost comical, if it wasn't so infuriating that they missed the point by miles and now it's somehow a 'problem' and must be stamped out.

The Women
Are all our characters 'typical'? Yep. I don't even need to see an episode of Desperate Housewives to know that these women are just like those. Or going back some years like the ladies in Melrose Place or even Dallas. These are women whose outward appearance is more important than anything. These are women who can't show weakness for fear of being chewed up (which is ironic given there is a vampire in this story, haha). These are the women so many of us (at least in my generation) don't want to be. We try to do everything in our power not to turn into these slaving housewives, mothers and/or caretakers of men and children. Hendrix hits the nail on the head with his archetypes of the different characters and gives us a glimpse into the fact, that we all have always known, being a mother and housewife isn't all it's cracked up to me. This isn't the 50's and there's very little thanks given to getting it 'right'. If you've watched The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (Amazon Prime) you'll totally get what I mean. If you haven't seen this great, funny and ironic show I highly recommend it for any/all; but especially women.

The Horror
There's a lot of set-up. Similar to a Stephen King novel; we don't get much immediate excitement past a couple paragraphs to start. But don't worry the gore, fear, and terror are coming. There is a point during this book (and yes I was reading late at night while my husband slept next to me) where I had to put the book down and convince myself there wasn't a 'creature' on the roof of my own house. That's how well Hendrix writes. I remember this during We Sold our Souls as well; there's always at least once where Hendrix will drag you so far into the story that your own psychosis starts to work against you. Perfect horror and the contrast with the sunny morning eating breakfast with the children is genious.

The Ultimate Ending
The best part of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires (seriously longest title ever!) is the ending. Our ladies are pushed to their limits, and yet while doing so are laughing at themselves. They've realized their own faults and limitations; as well as recognized that everyone is lying around them, just like they are. If there is anything this book definitely says it's that everyone is lying about almost everything. A commentary on social media and our outward desire to seem 'perfect' if I've ever read one. Hendrix takes these women, their husbands, their money (or lack thereof) and their livelihoods and strips them bare to show us the reality of what should have been obvious (and maybe was) all along. The challenge being if you see the truth in others then you suddenly start recognizing it in yourself; and most of us aren't ready for that.

I am not ashamed to say that I absolutely loved this. Whether you are young or old, male or female, married or not, a mother or not; I believe you will find aspects of these housewives in yourself and perhaps even recognize that you've been fighting against being these exact people. I know I have. I never wanted to be like my Mom whom (I think) values what everyone else thinks far too much. And yet I get caught in that trap weekly (if not daily) still today. Hendrix reminded me that life is funny and that the iconic life is actually so ridiculously treasured it can't possibly exist or if it does it feels like more of a trap than the back of a vampires nondescript white van.
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires is exactly what I expected; full of tropes, stereotypes, blood, gore, biting vampires, scared children, pompous men, and strong women. And leaves you with the solid reminder that you should never, ever invite someone into your home that you don't implicitly trust or know; because you never know what they do when you're not around and what mask they are showing at that moment, and you just might need some magical rule to save your life or that of someone you love. You'll laugh, you might cry, you'll certainly despair, and probably get at least a shiver down your spine as you watch these women fight against a vampire whose seemingly smarter than all of them combined.

Note: I have a mental health disorder, am medicated for it, and did not find the use of anxiety and delusions to be out of context or insulting here. In fact I felt like it was well purposed to portray a hysterical woman...(spoiler - highlight to read) and provide convenient reasons for her to be 'dealt with'. This is what life was like for many women, and probably still is today. They are in fear of their husbands or others determining them to be 'crazy' and not truly listening. Of being shipped off to a psych ward or being medicated past conscious thought. I have been in the shoes of this woman and terrified of being locked up myself when my anxiety peaks and makes me (for real) delusional and (frankly) crazy. If you think this is a poor portrayal then it's only because you don't understand how society has historically (and still today) treats hysterical women.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

Oh, this one sounds fun! Now I'm almost sad I already filled my 'Book Club' prompt haha.