43 pages 1 hour read

Rachel Yoder


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2021

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Summary and Study Guide


Nightbitch is a debut novel by American writer Rachel Yoder (2021). In it, a frustrated stay-at home mother of a two-year-old becomes concerned that she is turning into a dog. Finding a mysterious book about mythical women, Nightbitch then encounters three dogs on her lawn who take off her clothes and leave dead animals outside her house. This leads Nightbitch to start identifying as a dog and becoming happier as a mother. Meeting two old art school friends though shatters this joy, as she recalls giving up her own art career because of her child. However, this crisis also causes Nightbitch to see that she can express her frustrations as a mother in performance art. In a performance art piece, described at the end, Nightbitch is a dog on stage, killing rabbits and stalking the audience, showing both the primal power of motherhood and how it can be reconciled with art.

This guide uses the following edition of the text: Nightbitch. London: Vintage. 2022.

Content Warning: Nightbitch depicts a character killing their cat.

Plot Summary

Nightbitch is divided into 54 short and unnumbered chapters, marked by small breaks in the text, and by starting the following chapter in capitals. For the purposes of clarity, this guide has numbered these chapters chronologically.

In Chapters 1 to 10, a stay-at-home mother of a two-year-old, living in a midwestern town in America, explains her concern that she is turning into a dog. Referring to herself as “Nightbitch,” she worries about the coarse hair growing from her neck and the increasing sharpness of her teeth. Her husband, who is away working throughout the week, dismisses these concerns. Nightbitch explains how she used to have a career as the director of a community gallery. When she had a baby, she attempted to continue this job part time. However, she found the emotional strain of being away from her child too great and had to take on childcare fulltime.

Growing increasingly frustrated with her situation, she visits the local library and finds a mysterious book entitled A Field Guide to Magical Women by an author named Wanda White. The book describes White’s pursuit of “mythical women,” who often adopt animal features. A few days later Nightbitch sees a strange group of dogs on her lawn, which seem to be beckoning her to follow them.

In Chapters 11 to 25, Nightbitch is woken by the three dogs from the previous evening, who push her on her back and take her clothes off. The next day they leave a pile of dead animals outside her house. She starts to strongly identify with being a dog, feeling a new joy in motherhood.

When Nightbitch’s husband returns one Friday he discovers her entirely transformed into a wolf-like dog. She then sprints out of the house, wandering the neighborhood as a dog, defecating on the lawn of a neighbor and killing a rabbit. Going to the park by the library on a subsequent day, Nightbitch encounters Jen, another mother whom Nightbitch believes to be one of the dogs from the previous night. Jen invites Nightbitch to attend a seminar for the herb-selling business she is running.

In Chapters 26 to 36, Nightbitch is invited to have dinner with two, now successful, old friends. At the dinner, Nightbitch gets frustrated with them boasting about their pretentious art projects and ignoring her. Nightbitch storms out of the restaurant crying, and then runs into the woods and kills several animals. Returning home, she trips over her cat, which she then also kills. With this murder, Nightbitch wonders if the “dog games” have gone too far. She endeavors to be more “normal” and human, accepting an invitation to attend Jen’s herb party. Nightbitch reflects on how her mother could have become an opera singer but had to give up this dream when she had Nightbitch. She also reads a chapter in Wanda White’s book about a group of mythical women, “WereMothers,” who live in Siberia, communicate via telepathy, and can reproduce without men.

In Chapters 37 to 54, Nightbitch’s husband discovers her being a dog, naked and chewing on a rabbit, but accepts that this is part of her art project and who she is. Nightbitch attends Jen’s herb-selling party, which is really a sales pitch for an herb-selling pyramid scheme. Jen later reveals to Nightbitch that she is in debt over the herbs, and Nightbitch helps her by giving her a job as a publicist for her upcoming performance.

Nightbitch performs a prototype for this performance in her back garden—she prowls amongst the audience, and they start to mimic her, behaving like dogs. However, when one woman screams, the others all run away. Nightbitch then describes the finished performance of her project in a theater where she stalks the animated skeletons of animals as a dog, before killing rabbits on stage and chasing the audience into a magical woodland area filled with bizarre creatures. In the show’s final act, Nightbitch offers the limp body of a rabbit to her son on stage. Nightbitch comes to understand that Wanda White is not a real person, but an ideal to which one aspires, and which she has now realized through her art.