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…
Title: Nightbitch | Author: Rachel Yoder | Publisher: Doubleday | Pub. Date: 20 July 2021 | Pages: 256 | ISBN: 9780385546812 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Starred Review: No | Source: Publisher
I don’t really know how to review ‘Nightbitch’, because I don’t really know what it is about. I didn’t when I was reading it and I don’t now that I’ve finished it. I can tell you that it is a very strange and sometimes successful literary horror novel. I can also say that mixes a kind of magical realism with an entirely credible description of the struggles of being a new parent. I could suggest that it’s a bit like a mash up of Angela Carter and Mumsnet, and tell you that if that description appeals I expect you’ll like it.
But what is it about? Not a clue.
The story is very simple. A young mother (referred to only as “the mother” or “Nighbitch”) whose husband is often away for work, raises her young son-in-law US suburbia. She fantasises that she is turning into a dog at night, and in time it seems that she does. It’s never entirely clear how much of this is real and how much is her imagination. Plot-wise there isn’t a huge amount more to say than that. The book explores her transformation, the impact on her family and her relationships with her friends. It meander through a variety of incidents, with nothing really driving the story forward. And then it ends.
To be fair to the author, the book is engaging and at times very funny. There’s a sub plot about the involvement of one of the mother’s friends in a pyramid selling scheme which is hilarious and enjoyably scathing. There are also at least one scene of genuine horror which managed to shock me. The problem is that neither of those things were enough for me to get over the sense that I was missing the point of the book completely. It’s one of those novels that feels like it’s really trying to tell you something, but at no point could I figure out what that thing was.
It is entirely possible that I am an idiot. Many reviewers in the more literary space seem to be gobbling ‘Nightbitch’ up like prime steak, but for me it felt more like stale, dry kibble. I think the problem is that it cares more about its message (whatever that was) than it does about being entertainment. When I compare it to something like the wonderful werewolf movie ‘Ginger Snaps’ which is horror first and an analysis of the female experience second, ‘Nightbitch’ feels like a huge miss.
You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.
Olly joined the team in August 2018. He is our first non-American team member, and lives in the UK. He is the head of our UK team. Olly reviews both science fiction and horror books and movies for the site. He also enjoys writing articles when time allows.
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