This one was very popular last year, when it was published. I remember seeing it chatted about on many blogs and many of my trusted blogs for book recommendations enjoyed it as well. All that got me curious and made me place it on my TBR.
Then, because the title says it’s a story about a book club, my book club selected it as one of our reads, which I was grateful for because as much as I’d like to read the books on my TBR and shelves soon after placing them there, they most often just remain in those places unread for years. So I read it for book club, and it made for great discussions since we disagreed on a variety of things about the book. In the end, I think I ended up enjoying it a bit more than my fellow book clubbers did.
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. (Goodreads)
The story is set in a Southern suburban neighborhood in the late 1980s and focuses on Patricia Campbell, a former nurse now housewife who’s overwhelmed when the story begins from managing the household, her two kids, her mother-in-law who has dementia and lives with them, and preparing for a book club meeting.
The meeting flops on an epic level and Patricia ends up joining a new one that’s more to her liking but which her fellow members have decided to call a Bible study so no one (the husbands) will suspect the types of books they read, mostly thrillers and mysteries. The ladies of the book club grow close over the years. One day, a mysterious stranger named James Harris moves into the neighborhood. Despite being very welcoming and understanding of him at first, overtime Patricia grows suspicious of James and even begins to think he might be a vampire. But it’s hard to convince anyone of her suspicions, even herself at first. But the more oddly he behaves as she learns about attacks on children in a nearby Black neighborhood, the more convinced she becomes.
Overall, I thought it was a good read. I liked how it begins. It sparked my curiosity and kept my interest throughout. At times the characters (well, Patricia since we read from her POV) were so frustrating that I had to stop reading for a bit, but I think that frustration was intentional as we the reader become suspicious of James before Patricia does. Back then, I kept warning her about vampires as I read (like yelling at the TV, lol), suspecting the book’s title meant James, and kept urging her to go read some vampirey books. I was SO happy such a thing was included. I think Patricia reading a bunch of vampire novels was my favorite part.
I liked the references to Dracula and that it’s more that the reader suspects, like Patricia, that James is a vampire but we aren’t told outright. Instead, we see that he possesses something of the nature of vampires being greedy, vicious, and extremely selfish. I also like that Hendrix touches on how the patriarchy limits the influence and strength of the women in the book club and how they go about trying to circumvent it to defeat an evil that threatens their families and community.
What didn’t work for me, however, was that some things seemed unresolved by the end and there seemed to be some inconsistency. The end was underwhelming for me. Despite James being hacked to pieces, I still thought of him as alive. I just didn’t see the point of just chopping him up and stopping there, although his pieces are separated so they can’t reknit. I thought they’d burn the pieces as well to be totally rid of him and ensure he will never come back. I read that part thinking they probably want to give him another chance.
And although we learn of how James’s disappearance and the women’s defeat of him affected their families, I don’t think we got enough of a resolution there. For example, Patricia’s kid, Blue, seems like he was hurting and needs to talk to someone. I don’t think anything regarding Blue was resolved, and I wanted to see how things would change for him. Also, one of the book club ladies (I forgot her name) was in a very abusive relationship. I wondered what changed for her after participating in James’s disappearance because it seems nothing at all changed, which I found hard to believe, and why wasn’t Patricia more concerned about her friend?
Also, by the end of the book I wondered what was the point of having the old lady attack Patricia earlier in the story. That never happened again and no one else acted in such a way. I kept expecting someone to do that, or even James to act that way, but it never came up again.
It was okay, it was entertaining, it was weird.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Lol, so I read a hardcover cover edition and when I finished and checked the back cover flap, I saw an author photo of Grady Hendrix in a white suit holding a skull and I was like… James Harris rocked a white suit once. What’s going on here?
I couldn’t help equating the two because of that white suit (not because I think Hendix is horrible. I don’t know the dude). Lol! I was like, why??