Updated: Feb 5
Originally published: April 7, 2020
Author: Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Horror fiction, Southern Fiction
Nominations: Goodreads Choice Awards Best Horror
You remember the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover?” That adage was written for this book. Because this book is nothing like it seems.
Based on the cheeky cover (no pun intended) and the title, I was expecting something vaguely Christopher Moore, who’s known for his tongue-in-cheek approaches to everything from the Gospel to Shakespeare to the daily trials and travails of vampire life. I expected a hysterical romp through southern charm and manners of your average Virginia housewife juggling taking Bobby to confirmation class before Dimitri rises at sunset so they can sneak in a staking before the soufflé falls. Buffy takes Atlanta.
This is not that.
This book sits in the horror section of the bookstore for good reason. It explores the horrors of various aspects of suburban life to an almost traumatizing degree. The vampire in this story knows exactly which strings to pull to exploit the divides between the women in this book club and their husbands, their children, and even each other. He exploits the racist divides in southern culture by ripping it open and showing it for the soul sewer it really is. He is his own plague, and he presses on all the horrific aspects of suburban and southern lives in gut-wrenching ways.
At one point, I flipped back to the cover of the book to check the author’s gender. Not since my first encounter with Kate Chopin’s The Awakening have I seen the raw trauma of women’s infantilization played out so skillfully. The women do a lot of waking up in this story, not only to the reality of their own stature in their husbands’ eyes, but also to the disparities in society that are revealed by their experiences fighting the human epidemic in their midst.
What is it like to not be heard? What is it like to be treated like you can’t make your own decisions? What is it like to be so devalued that you are the only one who can save yourself? Hendrix does his damndest to crawl into his characters’ heads and walk the roads they’d walk, and he does a gut-churningly good job.