Danielle Valentine’s latest novel, Delicate Condition, follows the story of Anna Alcott, an actress who seemingly has it all—Oscar buzz, a doting husband, and supportive friends—but who yearns to become a mother. From the beginning, her IVF journey seems doomed. Critical appointments are moved without her knowledge, vital medicine is lost, and she’s sure someone is following her. Things take a turn when Anna suffers a miscarriage, except she can still feel the baby inside her. Her husband and doctors provide little support as her body morphs into something completely foreign. Plunged into a world of unknowns where no one can be trusted, Anna struggles to maintain her grasp on reality.
If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, Delicate Condition is the basis for the 12th season of American Horror Story, Part I of which is out now and stars Kim Kardashian, Emma Roberts and Cara Delevingne. This is the first time an installment of the anthology has been adapted from existing source material. It is also the first time the series will be penned by one writer, Halley Feiffer, who also took over as showrunner. While aspects of American Horror Story: Delicate’s production are new, the plot is straight out of the AHS handbook. Tried and true fans of the series know that the scariest parts are not the haunted mansions and killer clowns but the moments when the show mirrors the real tragedies of America. In season one, that was a school shooting, season 11, the AIDS crisis. These days, few things are scarier than the state of women’s healthcare.
Delicate Condition, which was published in August, is part of a long lineage of books that explore the terrifying side of pregnancy and motherhood. So, to help you keep the bad vibes going, we’ve compiled a list of books to add to your TBR–you know, for the pesky days in between episodes.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
The one that started it all. Many have seen the movie, but surprisingly few have read the book. Levin’s sharp wit and skill for creating ambience make for a fast read, and the novel is just as pulpy and terrifying as the 1968 film.
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
Jane, a young immigrant from the Philippines and a new mother, is desperate for a job. Enter Golden Oaks, a luxury retreat in the Hudson Valley that provides its guests with tailor-made menus, personal trainers, and daily massages, and they pay you to stay there. All you have to do is dedicate yourself to producing the perfect baby for an unknown family.
Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins
En caul births are rare occurrences during which a baby is born encased in their amniotic sac. Long associated with folklore, cauls are thought to possess healing powers. Set in Harlem, New York, Caul Baby follows the Melancon family, four women born in this way, and what each chooses to do with the power that comes with it.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Blythe Connor wants to be a better mother than hers, but from the moment she gives birth to her daughter, Violet, she feels something isn’t quite right. Her husband chalks her concerns up to the difficulties of early motherhood, but as Violet grows older, Blythe’s suspicions become more acute.
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Natsuki has no friends except a plush hedgehog named Piyyut from the planet Popinpobopia. The only person who seems to understand her is her cousin, Yuu, who reveals he’s actually an alien awaiting the spaceship that will finally take him home. As she grows up, Natsuki eschews the societal push towards what she calls “the baby factory.” Driven to the edge, literally and figuratively, the characters in this story go to highly disturbing lengths to avoid becoming cogs in the machine.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman
Based on her own experience with postpartum depression, Gillman’s groundbreaking 19th-century work tells the story of a new mother locked in a room by her husband to treat her “nervous disorder.” With nothing but peeling yellow wallpaper, the mother loses her grip on reality and descends into madness.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Her toddler is a menace, and she’s turning into a dog—or at least she’s pretty sure that’s what’s happening. Why else is she covered in hair and craving raw meat? Nightbitch takes on the idea of motherhood as a transformative time and turns it on its head.
Bonus Audio Rec: The Retrievals Podcast
Scarier than all the books above combined is the New York Times podcast The Retrievals, which reports on the dozens (potentially hundreds) of women forced to undergo IVF without pain medication at a Yale fertility clinic and the aftermath of their trauma.