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I was very excited for this book. Rachel Yoder’s debut was lauded as retribution for mothers and women who are all too often asked to hold their anger about the unfairness of motherhood inside to perpetuate the myth of what a good mother should look and act like. I was 100% on board for a book that put female anger front and center and asked everyone to bend to its will. I mean, of course I was, anger is in the name here at Angry Angel Books.
For the first two-thirds of the book I was reading at a breakneck pace. The narrator slowly turning into a dog and finding a new way to relate to other moms and her own son as she allows her anger to exist externally instead of bottled up inside is such an interesting direction to take commentary on this societal inequality. The writing style was interesting too: the dialogue isn’t singled out, it just happens parenthetically and it’s up to you to keep track of who is speaking. At times it can feel like you’re reading someone’s stream of consciousness recounting of their life, the details fly by at such a frantic pace. I think that this was a clever way to illustrate how mothers have to think and how there’s never time to stop and organize things the way people think they should be organized.
I have two hard and fast rules about books that I choose to read though. The first is that rape/sexual assault can’t be graphically detailed. I understand that sometimes it’s just part of a story, but I just can’t read it if it’s detailed and goes on for pages. The second is that pets can’t die in a gruesome or drawn out way. This rule came into play after I finished Lily and the Octopus – I do this for fun, and I shouldn’t have to finish a book if it’s literally ripping me apart emotionally. Which is what any story that gets that graphic with the process of a pet dying does to me.
So the main character mom in this book has a shitty husband that doesn’t help with anything (and when he does he complains the whole time), a kid that has attachment issues, and a family cat that is older now and has to be fed wet food and washed when poop gets tangled in its butt hair because it can’t groom itself as good anymore. Each of these elements causes her anger/doghood to rear its head with varying results as she becomes more and more on board with being a dogmom.
Where I had to put Nightbitch down was in the middle of a VERY graphic scene involving the family cat. The mom feeds it its wet food and as she’s preparing other food, the cat gets behind her and causes her to trip and fall to the floor (cat owners know how close we come to this ALL THE TIME so like, I get the frustration). But then she gets so angry and then, well…let’s say her dog side does what comes naturally to a dog, but with the help of human hands that can hold a large kitchen knife. I’m not going to get any more graphic than that, but just know that Yoder does, and it was just too much.
This was so disappointing for me. I was so excited for this book, I thought I was going to be able to give it a rave review and tag the author on Twitter and help to spread the word about her debut. While I can say that there are some compelling things about Yoder’s writing style and her chosen story, I can’t put my recommendations behind a book that has one of my deal-breakers. If this kind of thing bothers you too, I would recommend skipping this one.
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