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Future Home of the Living God

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Louise Erdrich paints a startling portrait of a young woman fighting for her life and her unborn child against oppressive forces that manifest in the wake of a cataclysmic event in this dystopian novel. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of 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 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.

263 pages, Hardcover

First published November 14, 2017

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About the author

Louise Erdrich

133 books9,662 followers
Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

For more information, please see http://www.answers.com/topic/louise-e...

From a book description:

Author Biography:

Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Born in 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, she grew up mostly in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. She attended the Johns Hopkins creative writing program and received fellowships at the McDowell Colony and the Yaddo Colony. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus (1991).

The Antelope Wife was published in 1998, not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide. Some reviewers believed they saw in The Antelope Wife the anguish Erdrich must have felt as her marriage crumbled, but she has stated that she is unconscious of having mirrored any real-life events.

She is the author of four previous bestselling andaward-winning novels, including Love Medicine; The Beet Queen; Tracks; and The Bingo Palace. She also has written two collections of poetry, Jacklight, and Baptism of Desire. Her fiction has been honored by the National Book Critics Circle (1984) and The Los Angeles Times (1985), and has been translated into fourteen languages.

Several of her short stories have been selected for O. Henry awards and for inclusion in the annual Best American Short Story anthologies. The Blue Jay's Dance, a memoir of motherhood, was her first nonfiction work, and her children's book, Grandmother's Pigeon, has been published by Hyperion Press. She lives in Minnesota with her children, who help her run a small independent bookstore called The Birchbark.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,105 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
December 6, 2017
“Accept life. You can be absolved of anything you did, you can completely win back God’s love, by contributing to the future of humanity. Your happy sentence is only nine months.”

I agree with Tatiana and other GR reviewers. Future Home of the Living God has a fascinating premise, but it actually spends very little time exploring the devolution of humanity idea (essentially, evolution going backwards with all species becoming more primitive at an alarming rate) and instead retells The Handmaid's Tale.

It's surprising that this book has received such positive reviews from critics given that it is highly derivative. I'm already tired of these Atwood copycats - Red Clocks is another - and I'm sure this is just the beginning. It cannot be a coincidence that they are all popping up while the hype of the Hulu series is still fresh.

This book is split into three parts. Part one is an extremely slow introspective build where Cedar Hawk Songmaker finally meets her native birth mother and considers how she feels about being pregnant. The whole book is written in diary entries to "you", her unborn child. Perhaps this is characteristic of Erdrich's style in that she explores daily habits, dreams and circling thoughts with little actually happening, but I don't think it's a great choice for a book exploring a dystopian concept.

The effect of the devolution is that very few "original" babies are born - those resembling humanity as we know it. Many women experience stillbirths; many more die themselves. The new theocracy that grows out of this chaos - “The Church of the New Constitution” - starts rounding up pregnant and fertile women to seize the babies of the former, and forcibly inseminate the latter.

Most of the action takes place in part two. Too bad most of this action also took place thirty years ago in The Handmaid's Tale. It is the same story - a man, woman and their child in hiding from a theocratic government, until the woman is captured and sent off to a place where many women are kept. Women are imprisoned to be used for their fertile bodies. Even the "Mother" character who lectures the women on becoming empowered through God’s blessing of a child is reminiscent of Atwood's "Aunts".

I found too much of the book to be dull, and the most dynamic and exciting parts were those ripped straight from one of my favourite books of all time. I was also disappointed how this book wasn't really about the devolution aspect at all, but only the infertility dystopia that grew out of it. Was this a poor choice for my first Louise Erdrich book or is she simply not for me?

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Profile Image for Angela M .
1,285 reviews2,205 followers
October 19, 2017

I woke up thinking about this book and even though I had finished reading it, I wasn't ready to leave it behind. I haven't been able to get it out of my head enough to engage in another book. This captivating story is beautifully written as we expect from Louise Erdrich. To those who hold dear Erdrich's stories filled with her love of her Native American heritage, I would urge you to not shy away from this book because you think she may have moved that aside in what may seem like different kind of story. In this warning of an apocalyptic world, she has not left it behind, rather it is front and center in the character of Cedar Hawk Songmaker and her family.

Cedar has lived a comfortable, happy life with a caring couple who adopted her at birth. She hasn't made any attempts to find her birth parents until she finds herself pregnant and wants to find out if there is anything in their medical history that she should know to protect her unborn child. As the story unfolds, she has to do so much more to protect herself and her baby in this time of chaos - with seemingly backward evolution, a government that has fallen apart, and the hunt for pregnant women. Like many expectant mother's, she keeps tract of her baby's development and lovingly speaks to the baby in this intimate first person narrative, a letter to her child. Her journey to motherhood in this chilling world where she has to hide, to escape being caught is haunting and harrowing. A gripping, scary story as she makes her way, unsure of who to trust. In spite of not knowing what the future holds for her and her baby, what she does know for sure is the love that surrounds her. I loved the relationships and the characters in this story - from Cedar to her parents , Sera and Glen, her biological mother, Mary Potts and Mary's husband Eddy to her postman Hiro.

My rating is 4.5 stars because I needed to know more in the end, but I have to give it 5 stars for the thought provoking and beautiful work that Erdrich gives us. I reluctantly admit that this is only the second book that I have read by Erdrich, but I plan to change that soon.

I received an advanced copy of this book from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
December 2, 2021
In the beginning was the word
-– John 1:1

The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. The Word manifests itself in every creature.
--Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

A car passes me bearing the bumper sticker Come the Rapture Can I Have Your Car. Oh, good, not everybody’s getting ready to ascend. I love driving. Thinking while I shoot along. If it is true that every particle that I can see and not see, and all that is living and perhaps unloving too, is trimming its sails and coming about and heading back to port, what does that mean? Where are we bound? Is it any different in fact, from where we were going in the first place? Perhaps all of creation from the coddling moth to the elephant was just a grandly detailed thought that God was engrossed in elaborating upon, when suddenly God fell asleep. We are an idea, then. Maybe God has decided that we are an idea not worth thinking about anymore.
Cedar Hawk Songmaker, 26, is writing a journal to her unborn child, very much hoping there will be a world left in which he or she can read it. This is a real concern, as the world appears to be going haywire. Plants and creatures, including people, are not breeding true. Giving birth, itself, has become a dodgy proposition. And who knows what will emerge?

The story follows Cedar, who had been adopted as an infant by white liberal city folks, through connecting with her Native American biological mother’s family, attempting to see her pregnancy through to term, and attempting to maintain her safety and freedom in a world where danger and attempts at intrusive control dominate.

Louise Erdrich - image from The Daily Beast

In the beginning was the title. Caren Wilton, in a 2006 interview with Erdrich for a New Zealand site, Noted, reports Erdrich saying she started with a title taken from a sign she had seen in an empty field: The Future Home of the Living God. It was to be a diversion from the more historical novels she is known for. She had a somewhat different focus in this early vision of the book.
Actually, it's about the postal system, says Erdrich...Perhaps I look dubious, because she starts to laugh. "It really is, I'm not making that up. I love the intricacies of the postal system. In the book, the US postal system decides to leave the government, and they make a compact with the National Guard so that the mail continues to be delivered."
At some point she opted to write something else. Her next adult book was The Plague of Doves. She got a bit of a prod to return to this one in 2016. According to CTV News,
Louise Erdrich, speaking at a HarperCollins dinner, recalled how Trump's win drove her to take another look at a novel she had set aside years earlier, "Future Home of the Living God." The book…tells of a society in which women's rights and democracy itself are endangered,
among other things. It is not clear how much of the book she had already written prior to this, and what changes she made to what she had already done.

Dystopian visions abound these days. It is impossible, in considering this novel, not to summon to mind The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s (and television’s) concerns about human fertility, risky science, a planet rebelling against the outrages of a waste-based society, and women being restored to a subservient place in the culture with extreme prejudice. Is the dramatic decline in fertility in both Atwood’s and Erdrich’s books nature objecting to what homo sapiens has done to its home world? Is it a specific natural reaction to scientific overreach, an experiment or project gone terribly wrong? Among other reasons, the meanderings here give voice to the notion that heightened intelligence is not a particularly good quality to have in a species looking to stick around for a long time. Maybe being the brightest bulb as a species means burning out the fastest.

Motherhood is an obvious stream here. Beginning with the opening epigraph (noted at the top of the review), from Hildegaard of Bingen, manifesting with a plethora of characters named Mary, and including an internet-based Big Brother sort named Mother. Cedar is connecting with her birth mother after 26 years of separation. Is Cedar more from her adoptive parents or more from Mary Potts, her bio-mom? There is a parallel theme that looks at God and religion. Cedar is a convert to Catholicism, in fact even reads nerd-level religious journals, and engages in an ongoing internal dialogue about the meaning of what she sees in the more universal sense. A Native American saint, Kateri (like Cedar, an [adoptee]…who converted to Catholicism as a teen) has been sighted.

Where do we come from and where are we going, as individuals, and as a species? The notion, noted in the largest of the review-opening quotes, persists throughout, and is indistinguishable from the meandering thoughts on God and the nature of existence

This is not a typical Louise Erdrich novel, at least not judging by her most recent work, anyway. The story-telling is much more linear. No major time jumps to speak of, and the action remains focused on Cedar’s experiences. Also, while she is fond of magical realism, this has a more science-fictiony sheath within which to consider existential questions than the magical realism historical work she usually favors. It is definitely fun, in a dark way, when extinct creatures again roam the earth as humanity is de-volving. Don’t think too hard about how those beasties might have come to be, how they might have been raised to adulthood. Devolution is happening. Don’t sweat the details.

Cedar is a mostly sympathetic character, so one can relate to her struggle, as one could to Atwood’s heroine. Enough of the details of this world make sense to keep us in the story. Things like Native Americans looking at an opportunity to reclaim ancient land, and religious extremists using their organizational skills to take over and institute an autocratic theocracy (a redundancy, and probably a Mike Pence wet dream) make sense, particularly given the 20th and 21st century experience of failing states across the world. The details of societal devolution are fascinating.

I had one gripe in particular, a character who I felt was given short shrift. A man, who had been helping many women escape the authorities, gives up some information under torture, as I expect most of us would, is then seen as an enemy instead of another victim, and is turned away. Hmmm. This is not comparable to her recent masterpiece-level novels, The Round House, LaRose, The Night Watchman, and The Sentence, but, overall, Future Home of the Living God a pretty good read. You can take my word for it.

Review first Posted – 12/1/2017

Published - 11/14/2017

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal and FB pages. Erdrich's personal site redirects to the site Birchbark Books. She owns the store.

Other Louise Erdrich novels I have reviewed
-----2021 - The Sentence
-----2020 - The Night Watchman
-----2016 - LaRose
-----2010 - Shadow Tag
-----2012 - The Round House
-----2008 - The Plague of Doves
-----2005 - The Painted Drum

-----Paris Review – Winter 2010 - Louise Erdrich, The Art of Fiction No. 208 by Lisa Halliday
-----Noted – April 2006 my link text - Caren Wilton

-----Alchetron - Louise Erdrich - a nice history of Erdrich and her work
----- Flowers for Socrates - November 2016 - Word Cloud: Windigo - this blog entry intersperses poems by Erdrich with bits of her history. A snippet of one in particular caught my interest, given her fondness for the surreal, from Advice to Myself
Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.

-----December 28, 2018 - A Woman’s Rights - a collection of articles that look at the nation-wide right-wing attack on abortion rights. Serious stuff, worth checking out
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
486 reviews1,356 followers
November 29, 2017
Erdrich is another one of my favourite authors. LaRose was exquisite. Now this read is of a dystopian flavour, and call me a heretic, but I'm not truly a believer...That is, until Erdrich spun a tail so rich she has converted or bewitched me. Either way, I'm a believer. Or so the song goes.

Cedar, 4 months pregnant, locates her biological Ojibwa parents during a time of flux when the world is changing. Pregnant women are corralled into hospitals -babies removed from them. Cedar hides until her due date in various locations. She has both parents working at hiding her so she can remain with her child. And the love that surrounds this unborn child, prevails.

This was on the verge of being a thriller. One where I wasn't exactly sure what was going on and it didn't really matter as I just went with it.

Great characters, plot development all them wholesome good things that make a good story great. Erdrich's phenomenal descriptive writing of snow, rocks (yes!) and the ominous evil of Mother. I lived and breathed it.

I keep saying I don't like the dystopian genre, but this is the 3rd one I've read (Bird box & Good Morning, Midnight) to convince me, I must be in denial.
4 ⭐️
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews235 followers
September 16, 2019
As I read “Future Home of the Living God”, I kept wondering when the story line will reveal itself -- when the necessary background information would be told so that the story would make some sense to me. Events happen almost randomly, and there's not a sense of an overarching story other than some religious fever dreams and unresolved imaginings.

The rapid, almost overnight decline of society feels too sketchy -- and it's never really clear what happened to cause the reversal of evolution or, indeed, what that even means. The vagueness is certainly intentional, but it's also inexplicable, and it makes the novel nearly impossible to parse.

What I find most frustrating is the main character's remoteness. For all the poetic writing about philosophy and religion, I didn’t actually feel Cedar's emotions towards the people in her life. It’s like her only curiosity was about the more ephemeral parts of life, not about what was going on around her. Sure, she asks questions, but it stuck out to me that the people around her know so much more than she did -- and it didn’t make sense to me why they would hide so much from her. In addition, she blindly trusts so many people she barely knows. It seemed like she had just recently met Phil (her baby’s father), that their relationship was new and that they didn’t know each other well. It would take a huge leap for me to trust someone like that to take care of me. Same with Sweetie and Eddy (her biological mom and her husband), who seemed nice but could have really taken advantage of her situation. For some reason, she trusted them more than Sera and Glen who raised her.

“The first thing that happens at the end of the world is that we don’t know what is happening.”

Sigh! I guess I will never know… because by the very end of the book, I ended up even more confused.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,735 reviews14.1k followers
October 17, 2017
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. 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.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews867 followers
February 13, 2022
“The first thing that happens at the end of the world is that we don’t know what is happening.”

Louise Erdrich goes dystopian in 'Future Home of the Living God' – Twin Cities

I've read several of Louise Erdrich's novels before this one Love Medicine, Beet Queen, Tracks and The Painted Drum; however, while Future Home of the Living God does have the same lyrical quality of Erdrich's other works, it is very different. Earlier works, and I'm especially thinking of Tracks, contain a tangible sense of danger to her Native protagonists and their tribes. This time, everyone is in danger.

Future Home of the Living God is set in a near future dystopia where evolution has possibly reversed course. The book is narrated by Cedar Hawk Songmaker in the form of letters to her unborn child. In this turbulent period of change which some imagine to be the end of time, she attempts to come to terms with her own identity and carve out a place for her child. A subsequent government crackdown on pregnant women and Cedar Hawk's imprisonment had tones of The Handmaid's Tale, but this was a compelling and intriguing story in its own right. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,005 reviews36k followers
December 8, 2017
Cedar Hawk Songmaker grew up in a liberal home to hippie white parents, Glen and Sera, in Minneapolis. Exceptions were made for Cedar’s adoption — bypassing the Indian Child welfare Act. Cedar’s birth mother was Mary Potts, an Ojibwe mother.

Glen and Sera didn’t practice any religion - but when a very pregnant Cedar was 26 years old she turned to Catholicism looking for answers and family connections.
She also was wanted to meet Mary Potts....seeking as much information she could to provide for her unborn child. For an entire year - prior she knew Mary had reached out to her through a letter, but Cedar was too angry at the time, wanting nothing to do with her. But now with a purpose bigger than just herself — she was desperate to meet her biological parents.

While 4 months pregnant, Cedar travels north to meet her Ojibwe family....life is becoming more challenging- coming undone: a type of mysterious reverse evolution, political breakdowns, winters without snow, and natural disasters. Glen and Sera, her adoptive parents, tried to warn Cedar about the imminent frightening conditions.
And this was - for me - the first sign of this being a dystopia novel.

“Every service system seems controlled by a separate group. Every city service negotiates with other services. People are forming their own civilian militias, their own rescue posses, hiding pregnant women. Nobody says where of course. The first thing that happens at the end of the world is that we don’t know what is happening”.

As dystopian novels go...this book has enough ‘relationship’ scenes with characters to really love - I never felt too far off in ‘outer limits’.
And.......if I were pregnant- I sure as hell wouldn’t want the government to get their hands on me. Cedar and her husband Phil didn’t either!

As an ‘emotional’ read ... I liked this book .....mostly written as a journal entry from Cedar to her unborn child.
As an intellectual read: creation, God, biological apocalypse: some of it went right over my head.

As for Louise Erdich..... it goes without saying, she is an incredible talent! - Immensely gifted writer!

Thank you Will, ( who stayed with us this summer and we had a blast), his wife, and Harbercollins for the gift of sending me this book with a box of 5 others! Thanks Will... very sweet ... to all of you!
Profile Image for Linda.
1,227 reviews1,276 followers
November 30, 2017
"My body is accomplishing impossible things, and now there is something wrong, most terribly wrong........

Only Louise Erdrich can take a cold, foreboding futuristic note and spin and weave it into a haunting musical score of soundless proportions. The down-the-road specs of light now settle in the here and now. Reality gone awry.

Cedar Hawk Songmaker steps forward in the Native American style of Erdrich, but this offering by the talented one is laced in a parable of evolution drowning in a rushing stream of reversion. The world is rapidly regressing into the flora and fauna of long ago extinction. Cedar, four months pregnant, finds herself caught up in the throes of a new dysfunctional society in which women are cast into breeding houses in order to preserve rare offspring that haven't descended down this spiral of evolutionary change.

Cedar begins writing a journal for her unborn child in the faint hope that this baby will know the beauty of a "once upon a time" world. It makes one shudder to think of the parallels to the Margaret Atwood novel. But Erdrich follows through on her wise choice of the familiar Native American theme in which a great people are visited upon, once again, by the intrusive nature of an invading culture. It works here and brings Future Home of the Living God to another level and in a different direction.

Cedar, adopted by a free and open couple from Minnesota, grows up caught between refusal and longing to know the Native American mother of her birth. When she finally opens the door and crosses the threshold into "blood of my blood", she will engage with individuals of her known culture who have been visited upon by extremes of modern lifestyles.

While not my favorite of the rich offerings by Louise Erdrich, it adds a new level to the creative mind of this stellar author. Even the reference of "Future Home" reminds the reader that forecasting what lies ahead can be filled with a myriad of wandering thoughts in a frightful and uncertain direction.
Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews906 followers
December 3, 2017
This is a different book for Louise Erdrich and I don't think people for the most part are loving it, but I did! I really enjoy dystopian novels and couple that with Erdrich's writing and, well.....she had me spellbound by the end of the first page.

The story is narrated by Cedar Hawk Songmaker in a journal format. She is 4 months pregnant and uses the journal as a device to speak to her unborn child. Cedar lives in Minnesota at a time of upheaval and uncertainty; evolution is running backwards at an alarming (and kind of unbelievable) rate. In one generation's time, flora and fauna are mutating strangely and women are unable to bear living children, more often than not dying in childbirth.

Somewhat predictably, government and religion merge into a theocracy called the Church of the New Constitution. This entity begins rounding up pregnant women and holding them in converted prisons and asylums, overseeing their gestation in the hopes of harvesting children who are viable and not devolving.

I simply could not put the book down. Anxiety kept me gripping the book covers in a stranglehold as I followed Cedar's attempts to keep herself and her child safe. I loved her relationships with her lover, her adoptive and Ojibwe biological families; her reflections on religion, philosophy and society; and her fighting spirit.

I know there are plot similarities to "The Handmaid's Tale," but so what? This work stands on its own, in my opinion. I agree it is not Erdrich's very best novel, but I found it riveting nonetheless.
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews100 followers
December 1, 2017
Speculative fiction not unlike Darwin's Radio, but with more mythology. I wished the main character had devoted less energy to miring in quibbles over her parentage.

I'm not sure why the author choose to narrate, but that's her business.
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,206 reviews188 followers
April 5, 2022
I shelled out cash for this book even though I could have waited on a library copy because I saw one too many white male reviewer say, “Do we really need another Handmaid’s Tale?” and that is the kind of crap I feel compelled to answer with my wallet.

Because the answer to that supposedly rhetorical question is an emphatic YES. We do need more books like The Handmaid's Tale. Because news flash, whiny white guys, none of the stuff that Margaret Atwood was writing about and rebelling against back in 1985 has been fixed. So until that beautiful, blessed day finally arrives, I hope and pray that talented, gorgeous writers like Louise Erdrich will continue to churn out books that make us all confront the reality of the world we live in.

Also, are we really only allowed one heavy-hitting dystopian feminist novel? Is that a one and done situation? Because if that’s how publishing works, we are WAY over our quota of self-indulgent, navel-gazing novels by privileged white dudes. I think you guys can spot us one every 32 years.

And here’s something else to think about: Atwood has been criticized (rightly, in my opinion) for inadequately addressing race in The Handmaid’s Tale. So can we admit it is possible that Erdrich, as an indigenous woman, might have something to add to the conversation around women’s rights that hasn’t already been said by a white woman?

I don’t think Future Home of the Living God is a perfect novel. Some key plot points are glossed over in a couple of lines, while multiple pages are spent dwelling on seemingly minor or irrelevant detail. It leaves a lot of loose ends lying around, which is uncomfortable in a book about so bleak a future. But the last two pages knocked me senseless with their stark beauty. This is absolutely a book worth reading, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.
Profile Image for Leslie Ray.
175 reviews95 followers
January 29, 2018
This is a dystopian novel that begs comparisons to "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood in relation to the sudden ability of only a few women to become pregnant. This leads to the government taking control over these women in so far as to "abduct" them into controlled hospital environments where they are held through childbirth and in some cases, beyond. The book is written as a journal by Cedar, in first person, to her unborn child. Through this journal we are given glimpses of the world and the on-going changes to climate (its getting warmer and no more snow), the disintegration of the government and subsequent takeover by newly formed militant like groups, and regressive changes to plant life and animal behavior. These were interesting threads in the journal which I would have liked the author to spend some more time on. It must have been gradual, but we see only through Cedar's eyes, where the reader is thrust into this almost abruptly.

However, it was entertaining and I like seeing how different authors portray dystopian/apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic scenarios in novels.

I would recommend it as I enjoyed it but was left wanting a little more in some areas.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
916 reviews13.9k followers
October 3, 2019
3.5 stars

This was the first book I drew out of my new TBR jar, and for an inaugural book of that project, I think it was a success! I will say that I wish I had waited to read this after The Handmaid’s Tale so I can compare the brands of futuristic misogynistic sci-fi since this is clearly inspired by it or is in the same vein. Still, I think it was interesting and as gripping as I had hoped.

I do wish this book’s pace was consistent throughout. The first 80 pages felt very aimless and slow as the main character was on a mission to track down her birth parents, and although they played a role in the book, I still think it was a random place to begin and dragged down the pace. The middle section, however, was brilliant and exactly what I was expecting from a book about pregnant women on the run from the government. It was tragic and alarming and memorable. And then toward the end, it veered back into territory of getting overly philosophical and less action based, so it began to lose my interest.

I didn’t mind our main character, but I didn’t feel a major attachment to her. A lot of terrifying things were happening to and around the main character, yet that terror was never really reflected in the writing style. It’s a picky criticism, but it made the impact of this book less punchy than it could’ve been. I liked a lot of the side characters and additional cast, though, so it was interesting to see how she interacted with them. Also, from the cultural lens of her discovering her biological native family was sweet.

The ending of this book is stumping me a bit. I don’t mind melancholy books or open endings, but this ending just felt so dreary and unsolved. Maybe that’s the point, but if it is, all the loose ends were tied together sloppily in my opinion. I’m left a bit dissatisfied, as if this could be the first book in a series but isn’t. I don’t regret reading this, but the concept of evolution reversing is SO fascinating, but it was hardly explored or even explained. In the end, that lack of detailing didn’t make it seem as realistic as it possibly could’ve been, so it read like a thriller more than anything else.
Profile Image for Caroline .
418 reviews572 followers
November 28, 2021

I guess Future Home of the Living God is Louise Erdrich’s attempt at a dystopian story, but I’m not sure how to categorize it. Supposedly, it’s about evolution moving backward, with the protagonist pregnant with a baby that could be normal or freakish. I was immediately excited by such an electrifying premise, so I was deeply disappointed to discover that it’s false advertising.

Future Home of the Living God is a disjointed jumble--literary fiction, thriller, suspense, and just a smidgen of dystopian. It’s also divided into three parts very different in tone and pacing, and this is where the genre is confusing. Part I is literary fiction sprinkled with some dystopian; part II is thriller, suspense, and dystopian; and part III is literary fiction with more sprinkled dystopian. Erdrich also tossed in some vague poetic, meditative passages now and then, sometimes apropos of nothing. All parts are supposed to connect, but the end result is a forced, unsatisfying mesh.

These are two totally incompatible stories--parts I and III as one story and part II as its own--that Erdrich insisted on melding rather than patiently crafting into separate, complete books. That’s a shame, because separately they probably could be good. Both stories have glimmers of real substance, but it was in trying to connect the two that Erdrich was constrained.

Because part II is exciting and suspenseful and comes closest to answering what this “biological apocalypse” is all about, it’s very page-turning. Here I thought the story was finally taking a turn for the better after a plodding and mostly non-dystopian part I, but then part III begins, and Future Home of the Living God once again takes a wrong turn.

In a single book Erdrich tried to tackle too many social issues, all within the framework of some dystopian United States that she never came remotely close to fleshing out. I’m not certain I’d fully understand what the “biological apocalypse” exactly is had I not read the book summary beforehand.

This is a three-star read for the thick part II section, which greatly moves the story along. Parts I and III are uneventful and two-star. I don’t think even Erdrich’s most ardent fans will feel enthusiastic about this one. Fans of dystopian stories should absolutely steer clear.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
October 14, 2021
When The Flesh Becomes Word

The upstage part of Future Home is an extended ode to pregnancy. It extols the courage, persistence, and fears of women who harbour the next generation within themselves. The downstage part is a somewhat vague context of environmental destruction, governmental oppression, and several other political and social issues (like Native American rights and history). What holds the book together is the unlikely theme of Darwinian evolution and the Catholic religion. But perhaps that connection is not as unlikely as it might seem at first encounter.

In the early 20th century the Jesuit anthropologist and philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin, developed a theological theory of evolution.* Evolutionary processes, he said, are teleological, that is to say, directional. They start with the merely material (the Geosphere), proceed to the miracle of life (the Biosphere) and are headed toward the spiritualisation of all life (the Noösphere). Put another way, it was Teilhard’s view that the reports of the New Testament would be reversed: the Word that had become Flesh would revert to the Word as the natural end, the Omega Point, of human development. We would all become united and experience one another not as flesh and blood but as non-material ‘souls,’ as parts of the one Word.

And, of course, Teilhard was absolutely correct. Humanity has now tasted its ultimate fate as pure word - symbol, image, and story - in the electronic Noösphere of the internet. Certainly the means by which we have used to create this non-fleshy state of existence would surprise Teilhard. But he would probably recognise today’s Cloud as a building block of global evolutionary progress. Humanity is clearly crawling out of its rather constraining skin and scaling new heights. We have effectively become spiritualised in the net.

But it would also be surprising if Teilhard were not profoundly disappointed with his own predictions. The Noösphere isn’t all it was cracked up to be. True, it has a sort of unifying function in that everyone on the planet is potentially connected to everyone else. But FaceBook, Instagram, Google, and Twitter, while they do a wonderful job of ‘de-fleshing’ us, really do nothing to unite us. Quite the opposite. Trump, QAnon, and Russian and Chinese trolls have demonstrated the downsides of living in the immaterial world of the Word.

In Future Home, evolution has apparently gone onto reverse. Ancient creatures are appearing, viable births are declining, and genetics have turned against existing species. The conceit of evolutionary ‘progress’ has been revealed for what it is - part of the story we have told ourselves, that we are the apex of evolutionary development, top of the food chain, chosen by the divine to rule and propagate. According to Erdrich’s story, however, this ain’t necessarily so. The Noösphere is not a particularly pleasant hangout, especially if you’re pregnant.

Erdrich has her protagonist suggest a theory: “Perhaps all of creation from the coddling moth to the elephant was just a grandly detailed thought that God was engrossed in elaborating upon, when suddenly God fell asleep. We are an idea, then. Maybe God has decided that we are an idea not worth thinking anymore.” If that is the case, perhaps Teilhard had the right idea but just got his directional metaphor wrong. Evolution doesn’t progress ‘upwards,’ it cycles ‘around.’ Whenever God gets a bit weary or fed up with the details of running the cosmos, he lapses into a sort of divine unconsciousness. The Noösphere, then, is a way-stop back to the beginning of creation from where he might have another try at getting it right.

*Teilhard is mentioned by Erdrich about halfway through the book. I don’t think her reference is incidental.
Profile Image for Donna.
541 reviews182 followers
December 10, 2017
Imagine a world somewhere in time in which evolution has reversed itself for some reason in a certain percentage of the human, animal, and creature population in certain places of the world and where the humans being born are somehow different than normal in certain ways. And imagine society trying to cope with this crisis and with government supporting certain drastic actions to enforce certain policies that go against what would be considered humane.

Now if you think I’ve been vague simply to avoid spoilers in my review, that is not the case. I’m being vague because I have no choice. The author has done next to no world building in this book and has seemingly done no research to answer the questions she raises by her fascinating premise that is never fully developed. For example, the author could not even commit to stating how long this awful situation of reverse evolution has been going on or why it’s so awful in terms of its effect. So how could I be as frightened for humanity in this world, as only some of the characters were, if I didn’t even know what was going on and to what extent, or what kinds of humans were being born then? I’m all for using my imagination when reading, but I don’t want to do the author��s work and have to write a good portion of a story in my mind which is what I was doing with this book. There are no acknowledgements in the afterword where the author thanks any geneticists or doctors of any kind who helped with her research, making me suspect she did none. If she did, it doesn’t show. Maybe this line from the book sums it up best:

The first thing that happens at the end of the world is we don’t know what is happening.

And reading this book won’t help you any, either...

But on a positive note, the premise fascinated me. It’s why I picked up this book and kept reading it. That and the fact that there was some good writing here in a technical sense with a very suspenseful middle section that I wish had extended beyond that point. There was also a somewhat engaging family drama running throughout the story that made me want to know what would happen next.

So if you enjoy good dystopian novels and plan to read this book, you may come away from it dissatisfied despite its interesting premise. But if you don’t mind being kept in the dark and are willing to settle for less in this genre when there are better books out there waiting to be read, go ahead and see if you can get more out of this book than I did. Good luck.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,222 reviews2,052 followers
January 1, 2018
I liked so much about this book. I love the way the author writes. I enjoy the theory behind a good dystopian novel. I really felt for Cedar, the main character, and desperately wanted things to go well for her and her baby. My problem was that the author just did not tell me enough!

Even as the story progressed I wanted more. I never really understood who was trustworthy and who was not. And the ending answered none of my questions at all.

So it must have been a very well written book indeed, because despite all these issues I loved it.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,548 reviews1,821 followers
April 15, 2019
Seasonal retelling of the Christian nativity story with a splash of The Handmaid's Tale. It is pacey and fast moving unlike the leisurely LaRose. Although set in Minnesota, rather than North Dakota, it shares an interest in native America with LaRose, but is a mainstream dystopian novel.

The government has been replaced by an alliance of the churches and the military at the same time as an uncanny natural disaster is in progress which is having dire effects on fertility and the chances of the foetus being carried alive to full term.

Will Mary give birth to the future saviour? Can she find her Joseph and make the tricky flight to Egypt, err, Canada? Will the Biblical Herodian government catch her repeatedly? Will saints make helpful interventions?

Anxieties about impending motherhood, the future, and contemporary politics, snapped together in a diary form with a garnish of Catholicism and folklore.
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,052 reviews526 followers
September 7, 2022
... there is nothing that one human being will not do to another. We need a god who sides with the wretched. One willing to share misery.

Louise Erdrich is one of those writers I have been meaning to read for ages, but just somehow never got around to. Then I rediscovered ‘Future Home’ on my ‘to read’ list and was curious enough to give it a bash (in spite of all the other books I am reading simultaneously.) Well, suffice it to say I finished it over a single weekend, it that was engrossing and gripping.

Erdrich is a consummate writer. Her prose is muscular and yet graceful at the same time, delicate when needed and often packing an unexpected emotional wallop. The nature writing here is simply exquisite. I was also quite surprised at the numerous wry observations and laugh-out loud humour, which made a very bleak book that much more bearable.

And maybe you have to plumb such darkness in order to offer the promise of hope and light. This was originally published in 2017, not only in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, but more importantly, I think, seen against the US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Cedar comments at one point: “I have seen a young woman in labour endure more pain than Christ did in his three-hour ordeal on the cross.” It is a provocative statement that, in the current political climate, probably would have gotten this book and author into a lot of trouble from right-wing zealots. But it starkly underscores the miracle and suffering of childbirth.

Here I am thinking of one particular scene about a baby being born that seems to go on forever. It is one of the most visceral pieces of writing I have ever read. It is not a spoiler to reveal that the baby does not survive (few do in this dystopian world where the evolutionary clock has been mysteriously set backwards.)

Cedar wakes up much later that night after an exhausted slumber to hear frantic rustling in the dark … she then sees a seething carpet of rats on the floor and on the table where the remains of the baby had been placed in its swaddling. It is one of many truly horrific and heart-breaking scenes in this quietly extraordinary novel.
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 35 books11.2k followers
April 16, 2018
Once more, Louise Erdrich dazzled me. The novel of a world quite literally devolving. . .evolving backwards. . .and with frightening speed was haunting and beautifully evoked. And Cedar, the young woman who may (or may not) be carrying one of the few remaining "original" human babies, is a courageous and inspiring creation. Pair this one with "The Handmaid's Tale" for a wrenching literary double-header.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,851 reviews231 followers
November 27, 2017
In this dystopian novel, Cedar Hawk Songmaker is four months pregnant at the end of the world as we know it. Evolution has come to a screeching halt and is seemingly rapidly reversing. Society is falling apart; food is scarce; nobody knows exactly what is happening. The US government has been replaced by something called the Church of the New Constitution and they are actively rounding up all pregnant women to study them and their fetuses.

We learn all this through journal entries that Cedar is writing for her baby so that the child will someday know what was happening while Cedar was carrying him. The story is filled with the love of a mother for her unborn child: her protectiveness and worry, her hopes and dreams for the future.

Cedar herself was adopted and raised by a liberal Minneapolis couple, Sera and Glen, who are Buddhists, but as a rebellious young adult, Cedar has turned to Catholicism, studying and writing articles for a magazine she publishes called Zeal. She is particularly interested in Kateri Tekakwitha, the patron saint of the Ojibwa people, the tribe of her birth mother.

When she first learns she's pregnant, she decides to seek out her birth mother, Mary Potts, on the Ojibwa reservation, to learn more about her baby's genetic background. There she also meets her grandmother, sister and step-father, who is writing articles on reasons not to kill oneself.

After returning to her own home, her baby's father Phil moves in with her to protect her in the rather hopeless desire to keep her pregnancy hidden. Once in 'the system,' Cedar is driven to do things she never thought possible to protect her unborn child. 'That my body is capable of building a container for the human spirit inspired in me the will to survive. To bear this child, I will go through whatever pain I must. This is the Incarnation. The spirit gives flesh meaning.' So beautifully written!

Throughout the story, there is an air of mystery, since we do not know exactly what is going on in the world at large. Most communication has been cut off: no cellphones, no tv news, etc. And there are unanswered questions in Cedar's own life: like who is her birth father? What has happened to Phil? Cedar is also kept in the dark about the condition of her baby; they will not tell her what the many ultrasounds and tests they perform reveal. But Cedar is convinced she is carrying a boy child with all the symbolism that involves with her religious views. She speculates on whether her child will ever be able to read her journals. Will he have the capacity to learn, to speak?

And finally, Erdrich's description of snow is just exquisite. Will our environment warm enough that someday we will no longer be able to experience the cold pleasures of snow?
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
November 25, 2017
The idea of devolution at the center of the novel is gripping, but this is essentially The Handmaid's Tale fanfic. I expected something much less derivative from an author of such a high acclaim.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,741 reviews2,267 followers
January 24, 2018
4.5 Stars

”You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.
And so become yourself because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well, their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they pick's the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”

-- “Teach Your Children” – lyrics by Graham Nash

August 7

“When I tell you that my white name is Cedar Hawk Songmaker and that I am the adopted child of Minneapolis liberals, and that when I went looking for my Ojibwe parents and found that I was born Mary Potts I hid the knowledge, maybe you’ll understand. Or not. I’ll write this anyway, because ever since last week things have changed. Apparently – I mean, nobody knows – our world is running backward. Or forward. Or maybe sideways, in a way as yet ungrasped.”

And so, at the age of twenty-six, Cedar begins her journal to her unborn child.

”Did I mention that I’m four months pregnant?
With you?”

Prior to this knowledge, Cedar had no interest in finding her birth parents; it is only now as she faces bringing a new life with her unknown medical background that she is driven to find them, to be prepared. But things have changed in these between-times, in this somewhat pre-apocalyptic period, pregnant women are being rounded up, and the hyper-vigilant government seems to know where you are at all times. Turns out Big Brother, or in this case, Mother has been watching.

Of course, they only want to help you, make sure you deliver a healthy baby and there are so many precautions one should take… of course, they feel that you should trust them to know what is best for you, for your unborn child.

Evolution has begun its own revolution, and the earth and its inhabitants are changing.

”I know we’ve come to the end of science. Human beings might be saved by science. It might happen, but I am quite sure even then there will be no true explanation. If evolution has reversed, we’ll never know why, any more than we know why it began. It is like consciousness. We can map the brain and parse out the origins of thoughts, even feelings. We can tell everything about the brain except why it exists. And why it thinks about itself. “

I loved the blending of the mystical, spiritual with Ojibwa customs, sprinkled with a little magical realism, a somewhat dystopian setting, loved this strong female central character, all the other characters she connected with, and the focus on the arrival of one babe yet to be born, as if in some way that babe was destined to save the world.

”…somewhere outside of the actual human experience of words spoken, words thought, there exists a language or perhaps a pre-language made up of words so unthinkably holy they cannot be said, much less known.”

Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
Profile Image for Beverly.
806 reviews293 followers
April 30, 2018
This reminds me of The Handmaid's Tale a bit, because it is set in a dystopian world where pregnant women are on the front lines of a new world; they are hunted and jailed by the government. There are enough differences to make it well worth reading and I devoured it lickety split.

Evolution is going backwards and no one knows what the new crop of babies will be like. Women, who were pregnant already, before the devolution are highly suspect. What will they give birth to? Cedar doesn't care, she just wants her baby. She is also going through some other stuff, she was adopted and wants to find out about her birth parents. Do they have any genetic diseases and why did they give her up? Her birth mother is Native-American, she has a letter from her and goes to find her in the middle of the world crisis. This is a book that contemplates mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, the weakness and strength of pregnancy, and government against anti-government forces.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,135 reviews8,141 followers
November 16, 2017
I really enjoyed the blend of speculative and literary fiction in this book! Also haven't read any Erdrich before, but I've been meaning too—and I will definitely pick up more from her. Definitely check this one out if the premise intrigues you.
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
540 reviews123 followers
March 10, 2019
This builds from a riveting emotional narrative about an adopted native woman meeting her biological family for the first time into some kind of terrifying Handmaid's Tale sci fi dystopian thriller. It's a little uneven because of the very different pieces, but it's really ambitious and mostly excellent. And when the writing is good it's amazing. Great use of catholicism and discussions of evolution and religion too.

I'm a parent to a small kid and am very sensitive about stories with kids. From about 100 pages in, I was a little too worried about the families and kids and pregnant women. It's definitely an intense book. So be prepared for that if you're sensitive too.
Profile Image for Figgy.
678 reviews219 followers
July 23, 2018

Actual rating 1.5

Erdrich seems to be one of those authors who has a knack for creating a really interesting premise and then ruining it by trying to be too “literary” and “artistic”. In one of her previous titles, La Rose, the lack of quotation marks did what this particular stylistic choice usually does, and made it difficult for readers to know who was speaking, and when.

In The Future Home of the Living God, the story has the potential to be incredibly intriguing, a kind of retelling of The Handmaid’s Tale set in modern times, with women losing the right to choose what they do with their own bodies… Only in this book pretty much nothing happens.

The rest of this review can be found HERE!


Review to come but for now... meeeeeeeeeeeeh.

What a GIANT waste of time.
Profile Image for Truman32.
344 reviews99 followers
December 12, 2017
I like to think of Louise Erdrich’s novels as the burrito bowls of literature. They are nourishing, accessible, somewhat ethnic, relatively healthy, and full of beans. Even on the rare days when they are not great they are still pretty damn delicious. Erdrich’s newest work, Future Home of the Living God, continues along this path.

This bleak and dystopian tale takes place in the future—maybe near future, maybe far off. Like a greedy dog refusing to share his squeaky toy with the neighbor’s new puppy, or like basketball player Allen Iverson refusing to pass the ball to a teammate for an easy layup, Erdrich selfishly hoards over most of the specific details in her book. What exactly is happening? Why is it happening? Who are these draconian mobs rounding up pregnant women? Good luck finding out. Erdrich is holding her cards so close to the vest in this go round that even Kenny Rogers would have no idea if he is supposed to hold them or fold them or even count his money while siting at the table (No, wait! No Kenny, I am pretty sure you should never ever do that!).

What we do know is that it is getting pretty darn warm. It’s not snowing anymore in Minnesota. There are flying lizards and sabre tooth tigers running around suburban backyards, eating house pets. Evolution is somehow going backwards and this is impacting plants, animals and us—people! What does this mean exactly? The book never really elaborates, but it is strongly hinted that now most women will be giving birth to some sort of stocky Neanderthal hominid. Future generations will have limited brain power, they will be wearing shaggy animal hides, brandishing large clubs, powering their primitive cars by foot power, and screaming out “Captain CAAAAAAVEMAAAAAANNN!” at the top of their lungs for no particular reason at all. In other words, this will be horrible and it might mean the end of mankind.

Cedar Hawk Songmaker narrates the book as a letter to the child she is currently carrying. Cedar has spent her life in the care of a progressive Caucasian hippie couple that adopted her while she was young. But now on the run, frantically working to save her unborn child, she seeks refuge with her Native American Ojibwe biological family.

All the fixings you would expect in a dystopian tale are here—you could call it the Atwood recipe. There are the extreme repressive agencies working to seize and enslave most women. There are harrowing betrayals and people standing by as these horrible things continue to happen. And ultimately there is a sad and pessimistic coating to all events that will make all readers curl into a fetal ball, pull a blanket over their head and eat only expensive Vermont ice cream from the carton for days and days and days.

Everything here is fine, and Erdrich’s writing continues to flamenco dance circles around most every other book out there. But to me this was a miss. The details were vague, the direction of the story too gloomy. I was having no fun.
Profile Image for Claire.
822 reviews176 followers
December 27, 2018
I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous going into this. I’m a big Erdrich fan, but this novel has had very mixed reviews. Is it Erdrich’s best work? No, but it’s a good book, that I think deserves more credit than it’s received. It’s suffered I think from unreasonable comparisons to Atwood, and to Erdrich’s other work, none of which it is directly comparable to.

Future Home for the Living God is a near-term dystopia, and important distinction because of its influence on purpose. This is not a novel about a world far removed from our own. Rather it is a novel about our world, and what could easily happen to it, in our lives, in our time, under the influence of religion and climate change.

Much of the criticism of this novel, has focused on the weak world building, vague context, and lack of clarity about whether evolution has in fact been reversed. For me, that didn’t really matter, it wasn’t what the novel was about. Instead, this is a novel about how easily our lives, and the rules, expectations, laws that govern it can be perverted in the face of crisis; imagined or otherwise.

Ultimately I think this novel does what it sets out to. It is an exploration of human society in crisis, an examination of what makes us who we are as a species and as individuals, it’s a novel of family, faith and human connection. It was generally well-paced, if a little uneven at times. Erdrich once again captured my imagination and my concern with this compelling read.
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