August 2021 Indie Next List
— Danielle Raub, Itinerant Literate Books, Charleston, SC
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One day, the mother was a mother, but then one night, she was quite suddenly something else...
An ambitious mother puts her art career on hold to stay at home with her newborn son, but the experience does not match her imagination. Two years later, she steps into the bathroom for a break from her toddler's demands, only to discover a dense patch of hair on the back of her neck. In the mirror, her canines suddenly look sharper than she remembers. Her husband, who travels for work five days a week, casually dismisses her fears from faraway hotel rooms.
As the mother's symptoms intensify, and her temptation to give in to her new dog impulses peak, she struggles to keep her alter-canine-identity secret. Seeking a cure at the library, she discovers the mysterious academic tome which becomes her bible, A Field Guide to Magical Women: A Mythical Ethnography, and meets a group of mommies involved in a multilevel-marketing scheme who may also be more than what they seem.
An outrageously original novel of ideas about art, power, and womanhood wrapped in a satirical fairy tale, Nightbitch will make you want to howl in laughter and recognition. And you should. You should howl as much as you want.
Praise For Nightbitch: A Novel…
“[A] wily and unrestrained debut. . . You can feel Yoder breaking loose, too, like she’s just self-injected a serum mixed with her protagonist’s blood . . . 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 New Yorker
"[Nightbitch] might well be the debut of the year. A feral fairy tale of maternal dissatisfaction, it’s best to go into this one knowing as little possible, the better to let Yoder work her devious magic on you."
—Chicago Review of Books
"All the cool-mom book groups—all the parent book groups, really—should read Nightbitch. . . It feels like reading a deliciously long text from your smartest friend, with a hint of Kafka, if Kafka lived in the age of mommy bloggers and designer doggy raincoats. No need to be a parent, a dog owner, or a fan of magical realism to enjoy; Yoder writes about contemporary anxieties with so much intelligence and charm that she can cause you to reflect without spiraling into deep depression. That’s a feat, these days, greater than metamorphosis."
"In this unforgettable debut novel, Yoder delivers an outrageous Kafkaesque parable about the mundanity and monstrosity of early motherhood. . . Nightbitch will grab you by the scruff and refuse to let go."
"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."
—The Seattle Times
"Rather than childbirth twisted into hideous shapes by the male artistic eye, in this book art crawls out of motherhood with an exhausted, sweating, blood-strewn, but joyous howl. . . Creativity and motherhood don’t need to be at each other’s throats, like vampires or zombies. In Nightbitch they feed in the same night on the same wild prey."
—The Boston Globe
"Yoder explores familiar themes through an inventive conceit, literalizing the surrealness of motherhood with dark humor and a keen sense of irony."
—The New York Times Book Review
"This book is part feminist indictment of the impossible state America’s mothers find themselves in, and part meditation on maternal fulfillment and rage. It’s also entirely bonkers and entirely relatable, perfectly capturing that impetus toward destruction you feel after everything else has been drained from you."
"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 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.”
—Publishers Weekly *starred review*
“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. . . A battle hymn as novel about sinking your teeth into the available options for self-determination and ripping them to shreds.”
“...A bold book, funny and bizarre and utterly without comparison…It takes an unmatched talent to orchestrate such an unorthodox concept. Thankfully, Rachel Yoder pulls it off with aplomb."
"Rachel Yoder’s much-hyped debut about contemporary motherhood joins a long literary tradition of women transforming and metamorphosing inside the pressure cooker of domesticity. If you’re a fan of Angela Carter, Miranda July or Charlotte Perkins Gilman, you won’t want to miss this."
"Wild and strangely hopeful, Nightbitch’s success lies in Yoder’s controlled style and its leap just beyond reality. If motherhood is an otherworldly state, why confine a story about it to the strictures of the real world?"
"Filled with wickedly smart observations and hilarious — and heartbreaking — moments."
“I could not love a novel more than Rachel Yoder's Nightbitch. It's such a uniquely brilliant book, one that looks at the intersection of motherhood and art, the terror of 'a thousand artless afternoons'. It is so wonderfully observant, so precise, and yet manages to expand and expand upon those initial concerns, turning magical, dark, and funny."
—Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here
Doubleday, 9780385546812, 256pp.
Publication Date: July 20, 2021
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Does the main character actually transform into a dog, or is the transformation a fantasy of Nightbitch’s sleep-deprived mind? Does it matter whether the transformation is “real” or not?
2. In the book, the main character is only referred to as “the mother” or “Nightbitch.” Similarly, the husband and the son are both also left unnamed. Why do you suppose this is? What effect did it have on your reading of the book?
3. After an animalistic act of violence, the book lapses into extended backstory about Nightbitch’s childhood and mother. How does the information in this section add to your understanding of Nightbitch and her own story of motherhood?
4. The “performance of motherhood” is an idea that’s played with in this book. Where do you see this idea being animated in the book and what does this animation have to say about the nature of modern motherhood?
5. What are all the different ways in which you see creativity being manifested in this book? What are the parallels between raising a child and making a piece of art?
6. What are the messages Nightbitch has received about what a “good mother” is and how does she ultimately redefine this for herself? In the end, how do you think Nightbitch would define “good mother” for herself?
7. Can you explain how humor worked within a scene in Nightbitch? What are the benefits of including humor in such a dark and in many regards serious book?
8. From the idea of “working moms” to the herbal multi-level marketing scheme, how does capitalism effect contemporary notions of motherhood and how Nightbitch feels about herself as a woman and a mother?
9. How did the husband’s behavior contribute to Nightbitch’s evolution? And how and why do you think his behavior changed as the Mother became more Nightbitch?
10. What would have been lost if Wanda White and her book weren’t a part of Nightbitch’s story? What function does this phantom character play within the book?
11. Pretend you’re an art critic. What do you think Nightbitch’s ultimate performance is meant to communicate to the reader?