Fiction Review: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Published by: Doubleday

“I think I’m turning into a dog, she said to her husband when he arrived home after a week away for work.  He laughed and she didn’t.”

From the first pages I was enthralled.  Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch – with themes of feminism and motherhood – quickly hooked me into reading science fiction/fantasy, a genre I rarely consume. Nightbitch is a feral force of a debut. It’s a smart, riotous, and deliciously fresh take on the werewolf trope, and, oh, does it ever ring true to the quarantine parenting dialogue.

The fantastical story follows a new mother who gives up her art career to stay home with her new baby boy.  Two years later, exhausted and resentful, she finds her body transforming into something unknown.  She discovers hair on the back of her neck and notices her canine teeth sharpening.  The mother finds herself craving raw meat and is overcome by the urge to run.   The mother finds herself angry.  

Yoder addresses a common an unpleasant feeling that many new parents feel.  For mom’s especially, hormones, body changes, and mental health moments can create feelings of invisibility. As a mom of a young boy, I can say Nightbitch made me laugh out loud, cringe, cry, and –in many instances throughout the story - feel seen.  

“I am angry all the time.  I would one day like to direct my own artwork toward a critique of these modern-day systems that articulate all this, but my brain no longer functions as it did before the baby, I am really dumb now.  I am afraid I will never be smart or happy, or thin again.  I am afraid I might be turning into a dog.”

 Yoder unpacks the impossible standards mothers are expected to meet. From being exhausted and feeling like the only dishelveled mom at the local library’s “book babies” events, to further navigating fitting in with the same yoga-pant-wearing-wine-drinking mom-group, to giving up career for baby, to the guttural and wild impulse to protect.  She explores the literal transformation of the body that comes with bearing a child and the metaphoric animalistic transformation while navigating a changing self-image, marriage and sex life.

I highly recommend Nightbitch to all parents of young children, and any reader that loves energetic storytelling with a gruesome folktale bent.  Even if your instinct is to turn away from anything too fantastical, give this delightful tale of motherhood and transformation a chance.


Review by Candice Suchocki Weir