Future Home of the Living God: A Novel

by Louise Erdrich

Hardcover, 2017

Call number




Harper (2017), Edition: First Edition, 288 pages


The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant. Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby's origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity. There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.… (more)

Media reviews

The funny thing about this not-very-good novel is that there are so many good small things in it. Erdrich is such a gifted and (when she wants to be) earthy writer; her sentences can flash with wit and feeling, sunbursts of her imagination.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ajlewis2
This was one of those rare books that I didn't like but kept reading because it was well-written and captivating. It is a realistic view of where we may be taking life on earth. It shows not only the biological possibilities, but also the cultural outcome. It is heartbreaking. It is haunting. I
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could easily give this book 5 stars, because it is really excellent. But the stars are indications of liking and I didn't like reading this book. I so hope we can avoid this future.
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LibraryThing member Gretchening
Erdrich is a gifted writer. Her characters are vivid, complex, their lives feel real in both the quotidian details and the inestimable effects of their position in society. These strengths, and the bitter humor of a protagonist trapped by circumstances and fears beyond anyone's control, make this
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book gripping. However, it's hard not to compare a literary dystopia to all the ones that have come before, especially when it retreads so much ground covered so ably before. As a fertility dystopia it's hard not to compare it to Handmaid's Tale, and as a literary dystopia it hits many of the same hallmarks as Station Eleven. As a piece of science fiction it is difficult to swallow--the cause of the sudden overwhelming mutations feels like it comes on both too suddenly and too comprehensively. It was jarring in an otherwise extremely grounded narrative to have so little explanation for what was happening, in such incongruous ways. I also felt that an exploration of the experience of racial disparity being thrown into upheaval by the effects of the problems people experience, begun so promisingly in the beginning and hinted at through the book, fell way to to the drive of the plot by the end, and this was a missed opportunity. In all, this was good, possibly great if your interest lies in quality writing, the experience of pregnancy, inter-racial adoption, and a dystopic descent into the control of women's bodies. As a dystopia, these concepts have been written more thoroughly, but as a story about a Native woman trying to navigate learning truths about her liberal White family and her birth family on the rez, this is a sparkling example of Erdrich's character work.
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LibraryThing member lilibrarian
The world has changed, and now evolution seems to be reversed. Strange creatures are being born, and even human babies are not quite human. To protect the species, a religious fundamentalist government demands that all pregnant and fertile women turn themselves in. Cedar, protective of her
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pregnancy, tries to evade capture with the help of her family.
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LibraryThing member c.archer
3.5 stars on this one. I was loving the book, in spite of the weirdness of the story, but UGH the ending. It wasn't what I was hoping for.
LibraryThing member veeshee
While I knew that there would be a strong focus on the pregnancy issue, I was hoping that there would be an equally strong focus on the devolution taking place. That didn't happen. Instead, this was a story that just gave more detail to The Handmaid's Tale.

Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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The Handmaid's Tale is a story that doesn't really take too much time to show how things got to where they were. In Future Home of the Living God, we get to see from Cedar's perspective how things started to shift into chaos and what led to the corralling of all fertile women. I just wish this had been done better.

Part 1 of the book is really tedious to get through. The story, told entirely from Cedar's perspective, is in the form of a diary/letter that she is writing for her unborn child. But she just prattles on and on about things that I don't necessarily care about. I did appreciate reading about her inner turmoil about her present situation, as well as the glimpses of the unease that was settling in around the country as people tried to get a handle on this devolution situation. But I wish there had been more of that. I wanted more instances of devolving, more of how everyone was researching this phenomenon, and the rationale behind herding pregnant women in and taking their babies. There was this time when Cedar decides to go visit her birth parents, which was interesting ... but it felt very disconnected with the things happening around her.

Part 2 of the book was more interesting because there was a lot more action, and a lot less philosophizing. Again, the focus was on the pregnancy rather than the environmental changes but at least it was fast-paced and filled with fervor and action. This was the dystopian thriller aspect that I had been promised and I enjoyed it immensely.

But then came Part 3, and it was more of the same of Part 1. There's very little that actually happens and just more talking and musing. Gone was the survival mode that I had enjoyed from Part 2. It was very difficult for me to finish this last part, because I just couldn't care. The ending of the novel was also extremely disappointing for me, because nothing was resolved. In a sense, this ending would probably have been a great segue or introduction into how things are set up in The Handmaid's Tale. But I don't think that was what the author had in mind.

There were 2 main reasons that I was really upset about this story. One is that I really didn't like Cedar. She is an aloof character, making it hard to connect with her. Even though more than half of the book is her talking about her thoughts and opinions, I never actually felt like I understood her. One minute, she is talking about religion and God and DNA, and then she's going on about how she must survive and her survival skills flit in, and then they just disappear and she goes back to philosophizing. None of it was useful, none of it was insightful. It just bogged the story down. The second thing I didn't like is that the different parts did not come together to create a cohesive story. Part 1 and 3 should be grouped as one thing because of their whole theme of literary fiction, and Part 2 should be the actual dystopian story.

Overall, I found this to be a vague story about a situation where we somehow end up reversing evolution, and for some reason this means that all fertile women must be rounded up and made to give birth. There was too much of a literary component to this story that didn't add anything substantial, and too little uniqueness to the dystopian story. It was disappointing. I'm giving it a 1.5/5 stars, and that's only because Part 2 had some adventure to it.
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LibraryThing member viviennestrauss
I have a terrible habit of choosing books without reading the blurb for fear of too much information. This was good but an emotional drain right now due to the topic of climate change + a ramped up Handmaid's Tale.
LibraryThing member mykl-s
A compelling personal story drives Erdrich's strange and deep and entertaining book. Magic but real, wrapped up in a backdrop of the near future where evolution is somehow switched into a sped-up reverse gear. Society collapses as saber-toothed cats and ancient birds appear. Birth becomes
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precarious and pregnant women are rounded up by newly formed, locally based, puritanical governments.
The plot is so strong, the story so well told, that I set aside all my doubts about the plausibility of it all.
The book is a journal, a series of letters by mother-to-be Cedar Songmaker to her unborn child, describing her attempts to evade capture, to find her own birth family, to find a place of refuge, and to make sense of what is happening.
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LibraryThing member ShannonRose4
Set in a near-dystopian world where nature has rebelled causing evolution to hit reverse; Cedar, a mother-to- be is attempting to find her real parents to gain some knowledge to her baby’s future. While society is going haywire the government begins rounding up all pregnant women, Cedar discovers
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the real truth behind her family and adoption.
While reminiscent of Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale, this a fresh, moving reflection on the natural rights of all of us & speaks to the disturbing changes we see taking place in our own world.
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LibraryThing member deeEhmm
Five stars for sheer nerve, on top of Erdrich's signature penetrating style and unexpected humor at even the darkest times. Speaking of dark times, the main character goes through the most convincing slow descent into complete disconnection from self and human community I've ever read. Little known
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fact, slamming into you like a fist with this book, Louise Erdrich writes horror.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
Louise Erdrich‘s latest novel may seem like a departure from her previous novels with her foray into the speculative fiction realm. With its discussions of world-ending changes and evolution moving in reverse, it is not quite the contemporary fiction story she typically presents. However,
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concerned potential readers should rest assured that while the story may be a different genre, her storytelling remains as stunning as ever.

Told in epistolary form, Future Home of the Living God is the story of one woman navigating the rapidly-devolving world as best she can while maintaining the safety of her unborn child. No one knows the reasons for the reverse evolution, how it originated, how far back in time organisms will go, or how to combat it. Thus, as the number of homo sapiens babies born to pregnant mothers dwindles, society begins to retract around those women who literally hold the future of the human species in their bodies. The problem is that this is done in true dystopian fashion – misinformation or a total lack of information, abuses of power, threats, incarceration, bribery, and more all done in the name of Christian values and the promise of a better life and protection for women of child-bearing age.

Cedar is writing all of this to her unborn child as a way to establish a record of the fall of civilization and a way to clarify her own thoughts during this tumultuous time. Because it is Cedar’s story, the focus is on those things that interest her. Since she expresses very little desire to understand what and why is happening, we don’t learn much about what is happening beyond her sphere of influence. Instead, we watch as she works out who her family is and what they mean to her. We see her meet her biological mother for the first time. We are alongside her as she sets about making a nest with her baby’s father. We are with her as she confronts hard truths about her adoptive parents. We are by her side as she waits in the hospital and wonders what is going to happen to her baby. This allows you to connect to Cedar on an intimate level as she comes to grips with what is happening to her, to her child, to her family, and to the world at large.

What follows is a somewhat spooky, definitely surreal, and surprisingly suspenseful story as Cedar races against the clock to keep her unborn child from the government’s clutches. As with any good dystopian novel, she makes new friends, finds surprising allies, and discovers who is willing to ignore their values when times get tough. We also discover what it means to be a family as Cedar’s predicament brings together biological and adoptive parents.

In such an unusual story, Ms. Erdrich’s writing skill comes to the fore. Her ability to set the tone with one careful sentence means readers never forget what is happening outside of Cedar’s world. The more forceful reminders of the ongoing changes are downright chilling when viewed in the context of what they portend for the world. Ms. Erdrich is able to bridge the gap from present and familiar to future and foreign through her beautiful but efficient writing.

Most of Future Home of the Living God is bleak. Cedar has no doubts that non-homo sapiens babies born in the hospitals or government-run facilities do not last long. Nor does she have doubts as to her future prospects should she be caught. The last scene in particular is rough. Yet, you finish the novel with a feeling of hope. It is a marvel of storytelling that you end the story feeling hopeful that humanity and all of nature will find a way to adapt and survive the new norm, that people will continue to resist injustice and persecution, and that compromise is possible. You take this feeling with you as you reenter the real world with its doom-and-gloom headlines filled with hate and denial. More importantly, you keep this feeling long after you turn that last page. Because of this, and so much more, Future Home of the Living God not only lives up to Ms. Erdrich’s reputation and surpasses it.
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LibraryThing member labdaddy4
This is an odd book. The writing is beautiful - lyrical and expressive - but a very strange story line. The novel places the reader in an alternative world where for some unexplained reason biology has gone "out of wack" causing women to be either unable to conceive or be unsuccessful in
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childbirth. There is no explanation for this, no causes given, and no real resolution of the issue. While I do not mind tales of an alternative reality - I do like them to be somewhat grounded with some causality and some understandable conclusion.
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LibraryThing member mamzel
Something is going on with pregnancies and life all around. Other life forms are evolving or de-evolving in monstrous forms. To make sure any normal humans are protected pregnant women are rounded up and held in prison-like hospitals. Cedar is an Ojibwa woman who was raised by white parents. When
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she receives a letter from her birth mother she heads off to learn why she was given to white parents. She's not showing her pregnancy yet so she is not worried.

This is a splendid story blending science fiction with Native American life with the science fiction being ever present but in the back ground of Cedar's story told in journal form as she writes her feelings to her unborn child.
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LibraryThing member msf59
Cedar Songmaker is 26 and pregnant. Her baby is due on Christmas Day. The worry is, is that babies being born are showing signs of evolving backwards, into a more primitive state. Martial Law has been announced and pregnant mothers are being rounded up and quarantined.
Cedar was adopted, as a baby
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to loving liberal parents, but soon discovers that she may be able to take refuge, with her biological Ojibwe mother, on her reservation, as the world around her begins to darken and disintegrate.
Yes, dystopian stories, with all the usual tired tropes, have been played out these past few years but, like Station Eleven, this novel finds a spark of originality and the creepy tension that Erdrich builds throughout the story, keeps the pages turning, with just enough crafty humor to alleviate the grimness.
I quite enjoyed her latest novel and it fits in well, with our current political environment, but like, The Handmaid's Tale, the future is not very rosy.

**The audiobook is excellent and Erdrich does a stellar job narrating.
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LibraryThing member CherylGrimm
A dystopian diary written to an unborn child in a time when the government has succeeded in controlling women’s reproductive rights and their results. Our narrator, Cedar Hawk Songmaker is 4 months pregnant and desperate to keep that fact hidden from those seeking control.

Cedar was adopted. She
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is of a long line of Mary Potts, but does not, obviously, go by that name. She is 26 when she drives up to meet her birth mother for the first time. She wants history. Hereditary, genetic, familial history. Life on the reservation is typical. Her mother, almost Mary Potts senior, and grandmother, actual Mary Potts senior kitten foot meeting her. Replacement Mary Potts (younger sister) attitudes in with a goth-Lolita persona. Then she meets stepfather, Eddy. A bi-polar intellectual with a PhD who is writing a book on why not to commit suicide. It’s almost surreal, were I not have read so many Sherman Alexie books. All in all, it is a nice meeting.

Once back home, with talk of apocalypse on the horizon, Cedar stocks up on necessities and adds cigarettes & booze to trade. When she goes for her first ultrasound, reality sets in. A kindly, attending doctor allows her to escape, warning her to tell no one she is pregnant and to hide.

News stations are being blocked or run by the government. Robotic broadcasts tell nothing, but give warnings as “people are out in the streets, demonstrating against not knowing what they should be demonstrating about.” There are mumblings of reverse creationism. That time has reached its end and will now roll backwards. No one is quite sure to what. After so many pages, it’s getting annoying. Cedar “knows” something is wrong with her baby, but how? One sonogram that showed nothing? She writes of her despair, yet divulges nothing. Nor does the author. Were this not our book club selection, I’d stop right here, page 68, and leave them all to muse over the peril no one knows exists. But I read on.

The child’s father, Phil, arrives with a warning to Cedar that they, the powers that be, are looking for her. She has not been able to reach her parents and a strange woman keeps appearing on her computer. Communications break down and public abductions of pregnant women are taking place. What newscasts there are, call for all pregnancies to admit themselves. For safety. But against what? Phil protects her as best he.

Animals begin to mutate. Supplies dwindle. People form communities. No one knows who is safe anymore.

Then they find her. She is alone when taken. They place her in a room with another pregnant woman who wasn’t alone, but irreversibly is now. And then she too is gone. Irreversibly. Happy pills and facade-faced nurses attend and restrict. But there are resisters. Her old mailman slips mail into her robe, an outlaw nurse works to free, and both sets of parents plot.

A harrowing series of events follow, such that I will not spoil your experiencing them. Cedar continues her journal to her unborn child. Always writing, a virtual escape.

I admit, this book scares me. Not so much the sci-fi aspect, but everything else. Every. Thing. Else.

Best line is from Cedar’s postman, Hiro, who was pivotal in her safety, when asked “How come you’ve looked after me?” he simply replies “You were on my route.”

Most endearing line is from Cedar to her unborn child. “I am your home
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
I finished [[Louise Erdrich]]'s newest, [The Future Home of the Living God] and I have to say, I didn't love it the way I usually love her books full of conflicted but brave and moral people. This dystopian novel does have some brave people, but the main character drove me crazy. She's persecuted
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and pregnant, so that contributes to her not thinking clearly, I guess. Also, she's facing the end of the world that she's always known, so again, she's allowed to make some fuzzy judgments - and she does. I guess the worst thing about her is the way she treats her mother. Her mother who is unbelievably brave, and this woman acts like a teenager to her. One of my favorite things in a book is a portrayal of childbirth, she has that. One of my most disliked things in a book is the mistreatment of a mother, she has that too. And the end is pretty choppy and messy. So, I don't know, at first I thought this was a going to be a good companion to [The Handmaid's Tale], but she misses that by a long mark.
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LibraryThing member bemislibrary
This political tome about women’s rights, environmental disaster, prejudice, and domineering government is either recognition of the battle for freedom being fought in America today or a foretelling of one possible future. The parts that made reading awkward were also the parts that showed how
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dysfunctional society was.

I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Although encouraged, I was under no obligation to write a review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
So, we have screwed up the world, no surprise there, but this time it has reached a cellular level. Evolution is taking a backwards step, chickens that now have the skins of lizards, a dragonfly with a three foot wing span, winter's that are no more and childbearing women are desperately needed.
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Pregnant women become prey to a new government intent on studying them and their fetuses. Not your typical world for an Erdrich novel, but a captivating one nontheless. She hasn't abandoned her Ojibwe background, instead she has inserted it front and center in the person of our narrator. Cedar, a newly pregnant, adopted half Ojibwe woman, who is searching out her real parents as the novel begins.

It is Cedar's story we follow, sometimes through letters written to her unborn child, as she attempts to navigate this new world order. A world, where using the basics of The Patriot Act, the new government is able to spy on anyone at anytime, using drones and newly developed technology. A person called Mother, appears on television screens, now that nothing else is made nor shown. It is through Cedar that we meet the few other characters in this story.

A strange world, but as Erdrich tells it, an all together believable one. Her descriptions are a marvel, beautiful and strange at the same time. The combining of the elements, cultural, political, and personal, amazingly wrought. This is Erdrich, stretching her wings, or less poetically stated, her writing skills and it made for entertaining reading. Maybe, also a warning, but not without some infused hope. Marvelous.
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LibraryThing member hes7
The premise of this book is an interesting one. Cedar Hawk Songmaker is pregnant in a time when evolution works in reverse and the government makes choices for the sake of humanity. However, the execution of this premise never interested me nearly as much, plus the storytelling format of a mother
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writing to her unborn child didn’t feel believable to me.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
This is the 4th novel that I have read by Erdrich and this one was the weakest. It deals with some of the same themes as the The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and suffers by comparison. It concerns a dystopian future where evolution is beginning to reverse. Against this backdrop Cedar, a 26
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year old adopted native American, discovers she is 4 months pregnant. In the current atmosphere this is not a good thing as the totalitarian government wants to control birth mothers because there is a problem with all births. The story is written as a journal from Cedar to her unborn child as she goes through betrayal, escape, capture etc as the story move towards the birth of her child. Although this is an ambitious plot, there are way too many holes that need to be filled. You could focus in on Cedar's story and dismiss that Erdrich doesn't give the reader more explanation about the current biological crisis. Erdrich said that this was originally a longer story and has been edited down to 266 pages. Another 50 pages with more plot explanation would have helped the story. The writing was excellent and Erdrich weaved in Native American issues into the book. If you are an Erdrich reader you might enjoy this. If not, then try "The Round House" as your introduction to Erdrich.
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
My oh my! Do not read this if you or someone you love is pregnant! Once again, Louise Erdrich tells an amazing story. Reminiscent of Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale", this is a "mid-apocalyptic" rather than "post-apocalyptic" story. Babies are being born with auto immune problems, so, of course, the
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government has taken over. Egads! Erdrich's lush, lyrical prose makes the tragedy of the tale bearable.
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LibraryThing member cindywho
I'm not sure what to think of this one yet. It was in Handmaid's Tale territory; when a strange change in evolutionary results of reproduction has spooked the humans. Cedar is a pregnant Minnesotan learning about Catholicism and her native background - she just needs to survive the circumstances
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surrounding her birthing.
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LibraryThing member Verkruissen
Dark dystopian novel about evolution changing direction. The story is about a girl from Minnesota who was adopted from a Native American family. She finds out she is pregnant and the story is told as journal entries that she wants to leave as a record of how things were. Something is causing women
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to loose their babies at birth often killing the mother in the process. Government is hunting down and capturing all the pregnant women for research and keeping them in former prisons. The story reminds me a lot of The Handmaids Tale with the government being reformed under a evangelical type leadership who sees women as wombs to help save the earth. Very dark, the Native American aspect was an interesting twist. I'd recommend it.
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LibraryThing member andsoitgoes
Interesting story line but reminded me too much of Handmaid's Tale. I got the audio version which is narrated by the author and she does a fantastic job. Not my favorite Louise Erdrich but I will still read what she comes out with next. I guess the ending is to be expected.
LibraryThing member decaturmamaof2
Heartbreaking, beautiful and fierce. Erdrich is a master of lyrical narrative!
LibraryThing member SamSattler
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
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winner of the National Book Award for Fiction). Future Home of the Living God, while it is something 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.

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.)
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