Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
eBook review copy; 288 pages
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich is a very highly recommended novel of speculative fiction.
Cedar Hawk Songmaker is twenty-six, pregnant, and writing this book for
her unborn child. Cedar is the adopted daughter of Sera and Glen
Songmaker, open-minded Minneapolis liberals who have raised her to
embrace her Ojibwe roots. She is also in contact for the first time with
her birth mother, Mary
Potts, who lives up north, on the Ojibwe reservation. She contacted
Mary Potts because she wanted to understand her origins for herself and
her baby. While she hasn't been paying a lot of attention to the news,
apparently evolution is moving backwards. While it is moving backwards
quickly for many creatures and plants, what is alarming is that women
are now giving birth to infants who are from a more primitive species.
A new government is in control. Now it seems that pregnant women are
being rounded up and sent to special hospitals, or prisons, so they can
be watch and monitored during their pregnancy. Apparently Cedar may be
one of the few women who is giving birth to what seems to be a normal
baby. Cedar manages to hide for a while, but with eyes everywhere
watching, it is questionable how long she can stay hidden. Cedar writes
down everything that is happening to her and around her. She records
her unborn child developmental milestones, and notes about how life used
to be for her baby.
This is how to set a pregnant woman in a bleak dystopian world and have
her talk to her unborn child. Erdrich captures what was missing in a
previously reviewed novel (The End We Start From). In that novel the
protagonist also basically ignored the news and didn't have a whole lot
of information about the disaster, but here Cedar shares what she knows,
which helps the reader enormously. Cedar's parents tried to get her to
see the news - she was just preoccupied with her own news. I know it
might seem shocking for some people, but there are many who don't watch
or read the news with any regularity. I get that. I believe that if the
world was ending in some way that information, real information would be
lacking and not freely forthcoming from officials. But I also believe
that people would get a hold of the dribs and drabs of what was
happening and react accordingly.
Cedar is a well-developed character and definitely comes across as a
realistic individual with her own thoughts and feelings. She is an
intelligent woman, who, once she understands what is happening, she
decides on a plan of action. She is portrayed as human and thus is
conflicted enough to have issues with the baby's father and her adoptive
mom. She struggles while trying to bond with her birth family. I
appreciated that Erdrich had Cedar embrace a religion, Catholicism.
She's not perfect, but she manages to adapt to every impossible
situation she is faced with.
I found Future Home of the Living God to be an excellent novel.
The writing is extraordinary - intelligent and captivating. The
narrative is compelling, with a plot that is chilling and believable.
Erdrich has several current political points that translate well into
this plot, such as the misuse/abuse of political power, governmental
spying, reproductive freedom, self-determination, environmental changes,
and questioning the wisdom of altering biology. I
raced through this novel and stayed up too late finishing it because I
simple couldn't set it down. While Future Home of the Living God is reminiscent of and shares some basic elements with The Children of Men and The Handmaid's Tale, it is definitely its own story.
My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.