Future Home of the Living God

Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living God
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Future Home of the Living God

Louise Erdrich

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. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Cedar 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.

It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

Review

Following Trump’s election, classic dystopias like 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale have resurfaced on bestseller lists. In our mid-climate-change, post-truth, resource-depleted, racist-and-sexist-backlash world, where we’re on the brink of the biggest technological and structural change since the Industrial Revolution, the future is ever-present.

Multi-award-winning Native American writer Louise Erdrich (LaRose, The Round House) is one of America’s best – and in this immersive, deeply moving novel, she delivers a devastating take on the end of the world as we know it, with characters whose fate we’re desperately invested in. Set between a reservation and suburban Minneapolis, it’s narrated from the perspective of Cedar Hawk Songmaker (as named by her white adoptive parents), as the moment of her unplanned pregnancy and reconnection with her biological mother collides with the apocalypse.

Evolution is going backwards: women are miscarrying, births are increasingly traumatic, and the babies who are born are not humans as we know them, but variations on an earlier genetic code that’s been mysteriously triggered. It’s not just us, it’s all life on earth: animal and plant. A new, church-based, system of government is forming; new technology is obsolete. A barter system evolves. People alternately help and betray one another. And new laws are passed that require pregnant women to be locked up and monitored…

While the imaginative landscape of this book makes it impossible to put down, what really entranced me were its moments of hope or human connection. Cedar on a summer afternoon: ‘There will never be another August on earth, not like this one; there will never be this sort of ease or precision. The birds will change, the squirrels will fall, and who will remember how to make the wine?’ On a larger scale, there is the idea that this has all happened before – that disintegration and adaptive rebirth are part of the evolutionary cycle, and the civilisation and species we can’t imagine ending represent a tiny fraction of a moment in the history of our planet. Life will go on, even if we’re not there to witness it.

This extraordinary novel is Children of Men crossed with The Handmaid’s Tale, combined with Erdrich’s unique vision and voice.


Jo Case is the editor of Readings Monthly and a bookseller at Readings Doncaster.

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