I blindly bought NIGHTBITCH, Rachel Yoder’s debut novel, knowing only that it sounded like a maternal, early-middle-aged version of the teen girl werewolf-as-puberty film GINGER SNAPS: the struggles of a woman trying to reconcile her life as a stay-at-home mom tending to her toddler son, having abandoned her artist life and career, her loving-but-simple engineer husband bringing home the bacon, while also thinking she is turning into a werewolf.
While GINGER SNAPS leans on filmic horror conventions and tropes, NIGHTBITCH relies more on dark literary fairytales and lore and mystery, but they both get to the same place: underscoring and subverting what is perceived to be a woman’s place in society, of suburban ennui, of letting loose a howl, of diving into the dirt and grime, to take yourself off of this cultural leash and not give a shit about the repercussions.
NIGHTBITCH is singularly focused on interiority. The mother, the son, and the father are never explicitly named (although the mother does eventually refer to herself in her head as Nightbitch), and dialogue blurs into internal thoughts. The bulk of the novel is the mother examining and evaluating her life in the here-and-now and is thrilling and leaves you wondering what this is leading up to, which utterly flummoxed me while I was reading it, but I was delighted as to where it ended up. Nightbitch goes through one hell of a journey and, while it’s not nearly the horrific transformation tale I expected to read, it is a very satisfying one.