... 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.