Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
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 A new, church-based, system of government is forming; new technology is obsolete.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.