Review: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

cover of the book Nightbitch sitting alongside a plate of bloody meat
Photo by Haley Newlin

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Doubleday (July 2021)
256 pages; $20.49 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

“Too much power makes a woman dangerous. And that was her project, creation and power.” — Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch is a horrifically brilliant mirage of Jekyll and Hyde meets the estranged relationship of women and society. The story follows a stay-at-home mother, aka Nightbitch (we never get her real name), who spends her days resenting the role she feels trapped in as a constant caregiver. She longs for the simplest of things — a shower, a glass of wine, to return to her artwork. Instead, Nightbitch plays trains with her son, cleans up his strand of messes in the house, and deals with his tantrums.

On top of it all, Nightbitch develops a thick coat of hair at the base of her neck, not to mention a matching tail.

In her transformation, Nightbitch finds an animalistic, protective connection to her son — who she begins to see as a pup — she hadn’t had before, and an odd sense of individuality.

Nightbitch is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. And yet, it’s among the most intelligent stories, alluding to the style of Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, and Franz Kafka.

Without outright belonging to the horror genre, Yoder lines the pages of Nightbitch with bloodthirst and an unsettling craving for carnage. And the best part, these animalistic qualities are all woman, or, rather, a grim and poetic depiction of the unspoken rage, exhaustion, and longing crashing the joys of motherhood.

While reading, I constantly felt torn between liberation and questioning Nightbitch’s sanity — a complicated and wildly entertaining tug-and-pull.

Nightbitch is certainly not for everyone, and it has a heavy philosophical weight. Though I enjoyed the literary qualities, I’d definitely have to be in the mood for such an interpretive read.

I wish more universities, particularly those studying feminist literary theory, would share this book with students. It’s a hell of a metaphor for modern femininity and the accompanying pressures.

I recommend Nightbitch for readers who enjoy literary fiction with dark fantasy and horror elements, such as monsters or the combination of lore and philosophy.

Leave a Reply