In his funny, gory new romp, Grady Hendrix conjures horror heroines out of a surprising demographic—the carpool moms of 1990s suburbia. They looked like “carpool drivers, skinned-knee kissers, errand runners, secret Santas and part-time tooth fairies, with their practical jeans and their festive sweaters. . . . But when the time came, [they] went the distance.” And how.
Life in the Old Village, Patricia Campbell’s suburban South Carolina enclave, has always been safe, if a little unstimulating. But that’s before Patricia is attacked in her yard by an elderly neighbor gone feral, and soon she finds herself driving around her neighbor’s attractive relative, James Harris, and inviting him into her house for ice cream with the family. Life is suddenly far from boring, but when Patricia’s suspicions about James begin to escalate, she takes the matter to her true crime book club.
According to her friends, Patricia’s just projecting a titillating plot onto their ploddingly dull daily lives. But when children from the poor neighborhood across town start dying, the club is forced to grapple with the possibility that Patricia’s new friend just may be the monster she claims he is. And as if one monster isn’t enough, the women must confront another enemy at least as terrifying: the patriarchy.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires takes place in the same universe as Hendrix’s Stoker Award-winning horror novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which is loosely based on his own childhood. Hendrix writes in an author’s note that his latest novel was inspired by the strength of his own mother and others like her: women easy to write off, but hard to defeat. “I wanted to pit Dracula against my mom,” Hendrix explains. “As you’ll see, it’s not a fair fight.”
In turns heartwarming and enraging, bloody horror and social critique, this genre-bending vampire story helps cement horror as a frontier for feminist storytelling.