Thursday, May 16, 2019

Future Home of the Living God - Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich is best known for the depth in which she portrays contemporary Native American life in her fiction.  Her work has won and been considered for major literary awards for more than a decade, including Plague of Doves (a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist) and The Round House (2012 winner of the National Book Award for Fiction).  Future Home of the Living God, while it issomething very different for Erdrich, is similar to her previous work in that many of the story’s main characters are members of the Ojibwa tribe of the northern Midwest.  What makes this one so unusual is that it is a dystopian novel in which plants and animals in the United States, including human beings, appear to have suddenly entered some kind of reverse-evolutionary process in which new births result in more primitive versions of their parents.  

Cedar Hawk Songmaker, the book’s narrator, is four months pregnant when Future Home of the Living God begins, and her narration takes the form of a written diary in which she directly addresses her future child just in case she does not survive the baby’s birth.  When pregnant women start to be arrested on the streets and whisked away to secret facilities, there is good reason to believe that this is precisely what will happen to Cedar and that her child may only ever know her from that diary.  Then when authorities begin actively searching for pregnant women – and when society begins to crumble all around her – Cedar knows that she has to do more than stay out of sight.  People around her know that she is pregnant and they know where she lives.

Author Louise Erdrich
Cedar, however, has something that most people do not have: two supportive families, an adoptive one and a tribal one - and both of those families are willing to risk their lives in order to protect Cedar and her unborn baby.  As a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, everyone involved wonders how it will all end.  Is it only a matter of time before the conspirators will be discovered and themselves arrested or will they all be able to blend back into the general population in just a few months?  When Cedar is captured and taken to a special hospital, it appears that she and her baby are not destined for a happy ending.

Future Home of the Living God, published in 2017, is a reflection of the times in which we live, a period during which women feel that their reproductive choices are being threatened in ways that may or may not be exaggerated, and that of course makes the novel even more terrifying than it otherwise would have been.  For good reason, this one will remind readers of both Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and PD James’s The Children of Men.  In my estimation it is every bit as powerful a novel as either of those, and it should not be missed.

(I recommend the audio version of the book read by the author.  She is the perfect reader for this one.)

Book Number 3,393


  1. Oh, this does sound timely. I love a good dystopian novel, but this one --at this particular time--seems ominous. How often do authors predict the future? Often enough to find certain topics uncomfortable and frightening.

    1. The timing for reading this one is perfect. I think that's why it bothered me so much more than Atwood's or James's books on the same basic subject. Throw in the reverse-evolutionary process and I was hooked for sure.

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    1. Jeane, I inadvertently removed your comment and apologize for that. I'll reply as best I can despite that. Erdrich's mother was half Ojibwa and Erdrich herself is member of a tribal group and does, I think, a wonderful job of combining Native American history with what it is like for Native Americans to live on and off of reservations in today's world. I love her books and have read most of them now, I think.

      The scifi book you mentioned sounds like fun in a different kind of way. If you can provide me with the title and author, I'd appreciate it.


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