Reading ‘Nightbitch’

Hey, I read Nightbitch the other night. (I mean, it must be read at night, really.)

Thankfully, I read it all in one sitting. 

I think Andrew told me that this first novel of Rachel Yoder’s is being made into a movie. I was afraid to read it at first, because it seemed to me it was going to be a horror story. That might’ve been why I read it so quickly. 

I was fascinated by the journey the protagonist (only referred to as “she”, “her”, “Nightbitch”, and cryptically on occasion, “MM”) undertook… be it willfully or not. 

Let’s see… I don’t want to give away any spoilers… 

I will say that the thing that made Nightbitch fall in love with her husband, would have repulsed me. 

I will say I was curious if any of Yoder’s Mennonite background (I assumed this because of her last name, and the fact that she was at the Mennonite/s Writing conference last fall) would show up in her novel. I imagine it did, as the protagonist reflected on her upbringing and background in a religious, German-speaking, conservatively-dressing, isolated community. (Right?!) I thought this reflection was beautiful even as I acknowledge I’m bringing my own expectations into the reading. I especially loved the bit about her grandmother. In my mind it connected with how I perceived my own great-grandmother (the only great-grandparent I knew). 

But that’s only a small part of this story. 

The larger part of this story is that she turns into a dog. A feral dog with a thirst for blood. She thinks she is turning into a dog because of suppressed rage. She is a mother who has relinquished her dream job to stay at home with her two-year-old because her husband makes more money than she does so it only “makes sense” that she give up her career, though she is more highly educated than her husband. He travels for work during the week, leaving her alone with a toddler who does not sleep at night. She is desperate for him to sleep. She is desperate for time to herself. She is Nightbitch. 

I think people have called this book a feminist manifesto. The first few paragraphs had me thinking so already and I loved it. 

Apparently it’s also a hilarious satire of motherhood. You might think this is an odd thing for me to say (as I’m married to a brilliant satirist) but often on new or unfamiliar topics, I miss the satire. I just dive right into the world created by the author and that’s it. So, never once did I laugh. I just forged on, wide-eyed, devouring each word. But I think upon second reading, I’d probably laugh a lot. Isn’t that weird? Even reflecting on everything that happens in the book, I want to laugh. 

The book also examines the idea of monsters. What is a monster? Is that necessarily a bad thing? Et cetera. I have two friends who explore this idea in their work, in vastly different ways, and here is yet another examination of “monstering” and I find it fascinating. 

I should add, this book is also about art and intellectualism. How we see and interpret the world around us and pose and pretend and what happens when you can’t pretend anymore? 

I’ll tell you what happens: 


That’s what.