author: Grady Hendrix
published: 7 April 2020
publisher: Quirk Books
genre(s): fantasy, paranormal, thrillers
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | BookBub | BookHype | Goodreads
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.
Be prepared for a spicy opinion on this one.
I hated this book. There were moments that I did enjoy, but they weren’t enough to change my overall lack of love for this novel. However, as with any book, there are always going to be differing opinions. What I love others may hate. And conversely, while I hated this doesn’t mean you will.
But hated it I did.
In my opinion, this book was over-the-top with the misongyny and the racism. Yes, those two things were a part of the point, but the way they were treated seemed lazy and undeveloped. Almost gratuitous rather than adding anything to the story. So many thought Hendrix did a wonderful job of portraying female characters, and I’m honestly unsure of how anyone could feel that way.
Let’s talk about the issue of racism… To be fair, the book is set in the Deep South, in the 1980s through the 1990s. The issue of racism within that setting is entirely appropriate. And I’ve heard the argument that their portrayal was historically accurate. To some extent, that’s true. But there is also a vampire, so I think we can safely assume this book isn’t entirely based on reality. There’s something very wrong when the idea of a vampire is more believable about a vampire, than a Black middle-class family in that same time frame. Besides, the reality of racism was used lazily, like a flimsy excuse to not have to have any Black characters of value. Most of the Black characters were both nameless and voiceless, and all of them relegated into roles of servitude. They all lived in a poor area where the white female characters were petrified to be, in a place where the white male characters saw as unimportant. And the sole purpose of the black characters, for most of the novel, was to be killed. Mrs. Greene was the only Black character to have any voice whatsoever. And even then, it was taken away more often than not. The White Savior narrative took anything she did away, away from a Black woman to give credit to white women.
And the misogyny.. oh, my. Honestly, I felt this was used lazily, too. These are smart women, some of them well educated, yet no one of them seemed to have the ability to pick a husband that wasn’t in some way reprehensible. Their husbands often did horrible things, yet none of them did anything but make excuses for them and accept it all. At times, I felt like I was reading fiction from a much more bygone era. For God’s sake, the husband of the main female character, a shrink, medicated his wife when she didn’t act as he thought she should. It was bananas in such an over-the-top way. The presentation of the female characters as having little value beyond the toys and property of their spouses is almost dangerous.
And the nonstop Nazi content… The main female character’s son is obsessed with Nazis. There’s absolutely no commentary on why, or for the parents’ attempt to curtail that. And that was incredibly off-putting, in my opinion.
Yes, I’ve read the reviews who thoroughly disagree with me, the ones that would say I’ve missed the point. The ones that would say that I’m taking this book too seriously. The ones that say my critical thinking skills need improving. To these same people I say… you have your opinions, and I have mine. That’s the joy of reading. We each experience a book through our own lens, developed by our own thoughts and life experiences, and then we develop our own opinions. So there you have it.
The publishing industry needs to do better.
This book reminded me why I don’t generally get book FOMO when everyone around me is reading The Next Big Thing.