Review by Adrina Palmer
Louise Erdrich, the New York Times bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of ‘LaRose’ and ‘The Round House,’ 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.
Louise Erdrich’s new novel ‘Future Home of the Living God’ is a character-focused dystopian society following the life of Cedar Songmaker and her unborn child. The world has devolved, as in animals returning to their larger less evolved versions long forgotten. Even newborn humans are born bigger and affected mentally by the regression. Erdrich does not spoon feed her audience details about the devolution, instead, feeds snippets of information, just enough to follow the world she has created. The book reads like a love letter to Cedar’s baby, written not in chapters but in journal entries.
What ‘Future Home’ appears to be is an inner battle between faith and evolution. Cedar, an Ojigwe native, adopted at birth by liberal couple Glen and Sera Songmaker, struggles with her own faith as the world decomposes around her. Along the path to finding her birth parents, Cedar discovers an ingrained faith and follows the Catholic path to find substance in her life. Despite seeing evolution in action, she and other Catholics, along with other religions, refuse to lose faith in their gods. Surely, the Creator has a reason for allowing the world to deteriorate into a base version? Cedar finds her birth mother living on a reservation in her home state of Michigan. They form an instant connection based on shared faith and desire to survive the fall of humankind.
America disintegrates into a strong-arm government, out to collect all the pregnant women, hoping to find infants unaffected by the new order. Cedar stocks up on food, cigarettes, and alcohol for trade, and returns to her home. The baby’s father comes to help, but the pressure to turn in pregnant women soon becomes too much for Phil and he gives up Cedar’s location. Hauled into a detention hospital, she expects to stay there until her baby is full term. With her silent Asian roommate and adoptive mother, Cedar breaks out of the hospital into the underground that sprouts from the uprising of the government. The road to safety is harsh as Cedar travels by mail truck back to the reservation. Several family secrets tumble out of the closet as Cedar stays locked in her birth mother’s home, together with her biological grandmother and half-sister. The days ebb into weeks as her due date draws near until a familiar face returns to dissolve her world once more.
Erdrich is a word whisperer. She takes normal words and forms them into delicate and engaging pictures worthy of tears. Each page is filled with poetic morsels urging readers to turn page after page, seeking the beauty found within. The issue though is that the ending is ugly and black in its severeness. I would have walked on water to read the book again. I would visit Cedar like an old friend. The end, however, caused me to falter in opinion. I could not write this review for days after finishing the final journal entry. I was so distraught from the loss of the beautiful pages and the tragic end. An end that differed from what my mind would have understood. ‘Future Home’ was phenomenal until it was not. I wanted more on the devolution, not just a passing glance of overly large dragonflies and babies too large to be birthed. I craved justice for Cedar and her baby whom I never got to know.
The love letters to the unborn infant were as beautiful as they were eloquent, drawing the reader in like an infant draws in her mother but was it enough to propel the plot, lost in the heart instead of details? The other relationships, adoptive mom, birth mom, dad, step-adoptive dad, lover, all of these people lead to a captivating tale of loss and gain worthy of five stars. The end was a relative no one knew. Related but separated by features of nurture versus nature. Yes, the nature of the end was an understandable evolution of the beginning but could have been better with the one thing Erdrich lacked: details. I would still recommend ‘Future Home’ of the Living God for its heart and passionate writing so full of life, but wish the book came with multiple endings so I could pick one more satisfying to my needs.
Now available in bookstores