Review of Future Home of the Living God
This is a very unusual and original novel, set in the near future in Minnesota. It takes the form of a diary written by the pregnant 30-year-old Cedar to her unborn baby. In this world, evolution seems to be running backwards, as newborn babies appear to be an earlier form of hominid. Cedar is a Native American, from the Ojibwe tribe, but has been brought up by white liberal parents, Sera and Glenn.
When she realises that she’s pregnant, she decides to seek out her real mother, Mary Potts, who lives on a reservation to the north. She phones her up and arranges to go and visit her and her family. Known as Sweetie, Cedar’s mother is married to Eddy, who works at a gas station but spends his spare time staving off depression by reading Dostoevsky and writing an epic book. Sweetie and Eddy’s daughter, Cedar’s half-sister Little Mary, is short-tempered and spiteful, but Cedar warms to her and begins to feel that she has found a real family she can relate to. Particularly as Sweetie is a superstitious Catholic and Cedar has recently converted to Catholicism, which she turns to in times of trouble.
As the government starts rounding up all pregnant women, however, the rumour is that they die in childbirth or are killed, and their babies are murdered. So Cedar decides to hide out at her house, with the protection of her baby’s father, Phil, who she met when they worked on a Christmas play together. But can Phil be trusted to look after her? Can they survive, and, if so, what does the future hold for them and their unborn child? As the novel progresses, and Cedar’s child develops, so the future seems less and less certain.
There are some parallels to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but this is quite a different novel, as the world it portrays is not as organised as Gilead – it’s much more chaotic, and there is the sense that the government don’t really know what they are doing. This new world order which Cedar experiences is never described in detail, and the reader never gets to see the new hominids which are being born. Are they really murdered, or are they simply being kept out of sight? Is the world really ending, or is this period a mere blip? The lack of knowledge which Cedar encounters as her baby grows inside her reflects the reality of a lack of news which has hit in this post-internet era. It’s hard for her to separate the facts around her from rumour, myth and fiction.
With its reflections of religion, and the culture of the Ojibwe tribe, Future Home Of The Living God (the title is taken from a church billboard which Cedar sees as she drives north to visit Sweetie) is a strange, dream-like adventure with a strong narrative voice. Here’s hoping that there will be a sequel!
Written by Ruth, Marketing
Future Home of the Living God
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.View Book