ARC REVIEW: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Title: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Pages: 256
Published by: Harvill Secker
Publication date: 22nd July 2021
Genre: Horror/Magical Realism
Format: Paperback
Amazon UK – Waterstones

Synopsis:

One day, the mother was a mother but then, one night, she was quite suddenly something else.

At home full-time with her two-year-old son, an artist finds she is struggling. She is lonely and exhausted. She had imagined – what was it she had imagined? Her husband, always travelling for his work, calls her from faraway hotel rooms. One more toddler bedtime, and she fears she might lose her mind.

Instead, quite suddenly, she starts gaining things, surprising things that happen one night when her child will not sleep. Sharper canines. Strange new patches of hair. New appetites, new instincts. And from deep within herself, a new voice…

My review:

A massive thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Nightbitch is unlike any book I’ve ever read before. It’s dark and thrilling and explores the struggles of motherhood.

What starts off as a fairly normal story transcends into something incredibly unique and interesting to say the least. The unidentified main character, known only as ‘the mother’ or ‘Nightbitch’ is a stay-at-home mother to her two-year-old son and had to give up her career as a promising artist. Her husband, meanwhile, works away from home every week and only returns at the weekend. This leaves the mother bearing the brunt of the childrearing and the housework. She struggles to cope with her son as he refuses to sleep in his bed and is awake for hours before finally dropping off. She wants some time to herself but that isn’t possible since she is constantly having to look after her two-year-old. To make matters worse, while her husband is away all week, he expects his wife to attend to his needs as well as their son when he comes home at the weekend and considers her to be living the easy life at home while he’s working. Furthermore, her friends from university still have their careers and she feels she has been left behind since becoming a housewife. All of this has ultimately left little room for any creative work and she feels uninspired and worn out as a result. She feels insignificant and considers motherhood as something that cages women and stops them from flourishing. It is, therefore, unsurprising that there’s so much rage packed into this book. I was impressed at the depth of emotion that was expressed throughout as one minute she would be bone-tired and the next blazing with anger at what her life has become. I found myself seething alongside her at how unappreciative her husband is for all the work she does and how he brushed off her concerns. This book packs a lot of emotion within its pages and you can feel how suffocating she’s finding her current situation.

While she does love her son, she doesn’t want the rest of her life to be devoted to motherhood and feels anxious that she’ll never be able to do anything for herself again or return to her career. Nightbitch asks all the right questions about motherhood and the unfairness of it that women should be the ones who sacrifice everything and end up becoming trapped in a monotonous cycle.

When her body begins to change, she starts to find joy in the most unusual way. What started off as a joke between the mother and her husband, she takes on the name ‘Nightbitch’ when she starts to transform into a dog. While she is scared at first and is unsure of what’s happening, she soon embraces it and stops fighting these urges to transform. She discovers that she feels more alive when she spends her nights running naked under the stars and rolling in grass. Not just using her newfound dog abilities at nighttime, Nightbitch soon starts acting like a dog during the day and encourages her son to as well. This leads us to question whether she’s able to parent her son better, or if it will have considerable consequences when he’s older. There’s some pretty violent scenes as Nightbitch really embraces her new senses and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. She’s a feral dog and hunts wild and domesticated animals, so it can be quite unsettling at times witnessing her transformation as she gives herself over completely to these urges; however, it was great to see her act so carefree once she stopped burying all her passions and just let them out. While it was hard to get into at first, I soon found myself flying through it. I thought it was a very creative and interesting take on motherhood. 

Nightbitch is a surreal experience but also a joyous one that I suspect will stay with me for a while. I definitely recommend this dark but incredibly original book. It will leave you howling for more!

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