In this kind-of-but-not-quite sequel to My Best Friend’s Exorcism, we revisit the town of Mt Pleasant and the suburb of Old Town. Not to read about ‘80s teenagers or demonic possession, but to join Patricia and her group of fellow housewives in the ‘90s. A book club with a penchant for trashy true crime novels and murder mysteries, they get on with their every day lives until a mysterious stranger, James Harris comes to town and brings their books to life.
My Best Friends Exorcism was one of the best books I read last year and I’ve already reread it since writing my review of it. I was worried that this novel (I’m gonna call it Book Club for the sake of the article because, boy is that name long) wasn’t going to live up to it. But Hendrix just keeps getting better, this novel might surpass the last. It’s smarter and you fall deeply in love with the characters over the years that we read about them. Patricia starts as this typical housewife; two kids, a husband that’s never around and a million errands to run. She finds escape in the novels the book club reads together and they form an odd little community together. Although, my favourite character is probably Grace. She’s stern and strong, and she’s an obsessive perfectionist. She doesn’t believe the rest of the girls when they start building their little conspiracy theory but when she’s finally convinced she pulls them together like the general of a small army.
If I’m forced to say one thing about Book Club that I wished was different it’s that I didn’t feel as grounded in the time and place of the plot. In My Best Friends Exorcism, you have these moments where Abby is hairspring her huge hair or talking about makeup brands and styles that were so popular in the ‘80s. You have a small number of pop culture references that make you feel planted in the time without it becoming overly nostalgic and gimmicky. In this novel, if Hendrix hadn’t prefaced each part of the novel with a year then I wouldn’t have known when this was set. Perhaps it’s just because I can’t help myself from comparing the two, but that felt a little disappointing. It was something I was expecting and looking forward to.
The plot itself is amazing and goes in a lot of directions you don’t expect. It focuses on Patricia’s family circle and the bonds between a mother and her children when the family is going through such a hard time. Patricia never feels like she’s doing enough to protect her kids even when she’s doing things no one would ever want to do just to make sure they’re safe. But, as well as being a great family narrative, it gets horrid. There are some scenes that you don’t want to try and imagine whilst you’re reading them, including swarms of wild rats and scary naked old ladies trying to eat people. The narrative of Patricia and James Harris becomes parallel to the novels they’re reading in the book. It’s like a high school movie when they’re lives always perfectly mirror a play their rehearsing or a book they’re reading in English class.
Overall, it was a great read. I’m looking forward to seeing even more from Hendrix, and hopefully more from Mt Pleasant as well. It seems like a lot can be done in this small southern town Hendrix has imagined. This is a book I’m going to be recommending to my friends.