... witty and bizarre ... what makes Nightbitch stand apart from the usual early motherhood stories, teeth and all, is that Yoder doesn’t focus on how hard being a new mom is, nor does she romanticize the experience. Instead, by blending the real and the surreal, Yoder shows a woman following her primal instincts and becoming her own person — or dog, I should say — outside of cultural norms. And in doing so, she finds freedom ... Be warned — the novel is dark, gory, violent. But Nightbitch is fantastically rendered. Yoder’s voice is razor-sharp, poignant and wry. While it’s seeped in mythical qualities, the haunting premise doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Nightbitch is a stunning modern feminist fable that shouldn’t be missed.
In Rachel Yoder’s wily and unrestrained début novel, Nightbitch, a mother’s body begins to betray her, or so it appears ... At first, Nightbitch presents as a novel about whether mothers can handle their lot ... The DNA of Nightbitch, it turns out, is more Angela Carter than Rachel Cusk ... This is Mary Shelley territory—mother as inadvertent creator of monstrosity. While Dr. Frankenstein transfers his longings into his innominate monster, and inadvertently sets it loose to prowl the woods and learn about the goodness of the Lord, the mommy monster of Nightbitch licks the blood off her new fangs with satisfaction ... With its endorsement of a magical text as more cathartic than any mommy memoir, Nightbitch makes the case for itself, and for fiction that expands motherhood into new, surreal dimensions ... Yoder sees a new way into the baser kinks of our animal selves, the ineffable bodily transformation of a woman into a mother. What is fiction for, if not blowing life up into the freakish myth it appears to be?
The ideas in Nightbitch may not be new but they’re given renewed urgency by the story. As with Kafka’s Metamorphosis or the gorier feminist tales of women becoming animals in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, this is an archetypal character, seen in close-up but with a distance between her and the narrator. Yoder’s voice is precise and funny, pitch-perfect as it modulates between wry social observation and ecstatic accounts of the mother’s nights of gnashing rabbits in her neighbours’ gardens. There is astonishing skill and dexterity here; the story retains the graceful distance of the fable but has far more stream of consciousness and social observation than we expect in a fairytale ... The situation builds to a crisis, with the mother’s violent urges becoming more dangerous. Something has to change and the answer comes through art. I wondered if too much was made of it as a solution to life – the sense that she has a vocation to fulfil feels a little over-weighted. Some of the book’s vision of nature loses its charge when it’s put back into the gallery. But as a vision of womanhood and of motherhood, this remains a terrifically alive and imaginative tale of 'a wild, complicated woman with strange yearnings' – an important contribution to the engagement with motherhood that rightly dominates contemporary feminism.
... seems at first to fit into that tradition of gravid terror. But instead of recoiling like Geena Davis, the novel turns back on itself with a growl, biting down on its own flank ... a novel about bringing itself into being. The messy art the mother imagines about moms and rage and smashing stuff is the book itself.
If you have ever been the primary parent of a small child, reading Rachel Yoder’s debut novel, Nightbitch, may feel as if the author stuck her hand into your brain and rummaged around. Yoder has a powerful understanding of the alienation that can set in for stay-at-home mothers and others ... surprising, and surprisingly gory, scenes in this novel. They’re not gratuitous, but they’re also not genteel...Neither is Nightbitch. She’s raw and complicated and angry ... Not only are these imaginary tribes of women wittily conceived, but they also remind us of motherhood’s shared experiences: the changing bodies, disrupted sleep schedules and tiny potentates demanding macaroni again and again ... As Nightbitch disrupts the equilibrium of her household, allowing her long-suppressed fury to surface, something else happens: She rediscovers her creativity. The scene of her art opening is unforgettable. So is Nightbitch. No one should take her for granted.
The early pages of the novel are a relentless accumulation of maternal indignities ... Yoder mimics...confessional style while mining these unseemly emotions for more surrealist ends. Refreshingly, she dispenses with any coyness about the premise almost immediately ... Yoder’s prose takes on a deliciously tactile quality when describing Nightbitch’s feral excursions, picking up scents and tracking prey with the same ravenous energy as her character. The experience is presented as a perfectly rational reaction to the world around her, and it’s exhilarating, even cathartic, to watch this woman’s rage take a corporeal form ... Yoder [does not] advocate actually becoming a monster as any sort of solution to the world’s problems, of course, even if such a thing were possible. But we can live vicariously through [her] characters for a while and right now that’s more than enough.
... deliciously untamed ... is in essence a fantasy, one that contains sharp observations about the perennial issue of women whose identity becomes subsumed into that of one-sided carer. Yoder writes as well on this as she does on the paradox of motherhood, with its simultaneous feelings of alienation and deep bonding. The neatly portrayed cult of 'moms' is revealed as a community of emptiness behind the claustrophobic nature of competitive friendship groups ... Ultimately, Nightbitch tasks herself with filling this vacuum into empathy, alongside a new, controversial direction for her neglected artistic expression. This final aspect of the book appears too contrived and ostentatiously earnest. More pertinently, her recollections of growing up in a religious community in the Appalachians and of her own mother, a talented opera singer who thwarted her career, ably stitches together the threads of rebellion and rude resistance that propel the novel on.
A third of the way through...I found myself less enjoying the author’s fine prose, and more doing the thing that parenting Instagram accounts beg you not to do: judging ... My judge-y, 'you’re in your own way' feeling, so familiar to me from late-night Facebook parenting group browsing, wasn’t the one I was expecting to have while reading this book. I’ve gulped down the other titles in the little emerging canon of 21st century literary motherhood—Galchen, Cusk, Kiesling—with a sense of deep recognition, happy to finally see my own Feelings and Experiences rendered in beautiful prose. But I read my way through Yoder’s narrator’s catalog of domestic woes not nodding my head at the way motherhood 'is,' but instead flinching at the ways this mother is making herself a martyr. This is good. It’s good to have a range of these beautifully executed treatments of motherhood, which is not, after all, a universal experience ... This daily need for accommodation between parent and toddler as they move out of the honeymoon phase is, as they say, 'the work,' but it’s not a very interesting plot for a book ... There are parts of the book that seem to be trying too hard—I could do without the subplot where the narrator reads a mysterious book about magical women and sends long letters to its author. But as a meditation on the radical evolution parenthood demands, it’s perfect. Nightbitch proposes that a person can find resolution to the contradiction between selfhood and parenthood, but only by becoming something strange, impossible, and a little bit disgusting.
There has been something of a resurgence in stories of feminine monstrousness, but Yoder’s take feels very fresh, even mischievous in its handling of the metamorphic trope. She ironises the ponderous trappings of the gothic with a chatty, insubstantial tone, employing lots of exclamation marks and other deceptively corny affectations. It all helps to build a disconcerting intimacy with her pseudo-canine protagonist. We follow Nightbitch as she stalks by shimmering hosta leaves, through the gardens of sprawling McMansions and under the strip lights of mega malls, all brightly evoked in Yoder’s exuberant, velvety prose ... The mounting incongruity between Nightbitch’s profane interiority and this sanitised, suburban mise en scène yields some of the novel’s funniest scenes ... Not all of the humour worked for me. Some of the jokes – and I am fully aware I am saying this in the context of a review of a book in which a woman turns into a dog – strained credulity...Likewise, Nightbitch’s husband’s comic obliviousness to her condition edges, at times, into the cartoonish ... Yoder’s humour may sometimes miss the mark, but her commentary on the assorted neuroses of modern womanhood is graceful and coolly incisive ... Where Yoder’s novel felt most original to me was in this harnessing of the familiar tropes of individual transfiguration to a broader social critique. The novel’s premise reads like the literal embodiment of an expensive residential workshop Gwyneth Paltrow might endorse: centre the spirit through dog-play. Find your inner wolf mother. The sensational nature of the Nightbitch’s metamorphosis reveals, by contrast, the paucity of what capitalism offers moneyed western women, torn between the conflicting demands of work and family: herbal remedies in bijou packaging, a new pair of leather boots ... Despite these satirical undertones, there is a pleasing generosity about this debut. Nightbitch’s premise may not be radically original, and neither is its denouement – but Yoder’s peculiar wit infuses new life into the cold, furry flesh of the monstrous femme.
... fantastic ... Wildly (literally) imaginative plot aside, Yoder’s debut exposes her as a tremendous writer. She seamlessly blends dark comedy with astute observations on the state of modern motherhood and feminism in general that will make the reader feel both seen and enraged.
Yoder’s first novel finds catharsis in pushing reality to its fantastic limits. The mother/Nightbitch is sublimely quotable as she skewers society’s devaluation of caretaking work and realizes that her art and her life could be the same thing.
This is a book about the loneliness of domesticity and the internal cost of upward comparisons, but with much humor in the dejection. It is as though Leonora Carrington wrote Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, yet truly original. The prose effectively draws the reader into the minutia that is the mother’s life ... Yoder creates a mythos around the mother that is intimate and admitting ... Yoder strips away the romanticism of a monster narrative with Nightbitch. There are no sexy vampires or a castaway modern Prometheus. There is only the stark reality of a woman trying to regain her sense of self.
Yoder’s guttural and luminous debut blends absurdism, humor, and myth to lay bare the feral, violent realities underlying a new mother’s existence ... Bursting with fury, loneliness, and vulgarity, Yoder’s narrative revels in its deconstruction of the social script women and mothers are taught to follow, painstakingly reading between the lines to expose the cruel and downright ludicrous ways in which women are denied their personhood. An electric work by an ingenious new voice, this is one to devour.
A new mother who fears she's going through a frightening and exhilarating transformation leans into the feral side of motherhood ... Though at points this novel can read as if ticking boxes from a list of notes cribbed from an internet moms' group, it remains a darkly funny, often insightful dive into the competitive relationship and mutually generative potential between art and motherhood and the animalism underlying procreation and child-rearing. It is both a lament for and, at times, a satire of discontented, primarily White, heterosexual cis women who, without sufficient familial or community support, seek out often toxic and sometimes predatory online communities, where their propensities for a certain kind of American middle-class girl-boss elitism are honed toward 'mom shaming' and multilevel marketing scams.