Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Not quite a futuristic thriller and not exactly science fiction, this book is a story about how the world is ending. Evolution has begun a backward-sideways-askew tread, and ecosystems are beginning to witness changes on molecular levels. Throw in a dash of human panic and planning driven by crisis, and we’ve got a dystopia on our hands. As nature morphs into something beyond the capacity of knowledge, societal power begins to shift, as it often does in times of global instability. To this mess, add Cedar Songmaker, a sassy young woman who happens to be four months into a pregnancy. As she attempts to reconnect with the native roots of her biological family, she is forced to flee under threat of persecution when new religious and scientific governmental bodies begin to round up all viably pregnant or fertile females. As Cedar and her family navigate a new underground railroad, seeking out space for a peaceful delivery, Cedar must confront the fact that the biological structure of the world has changed, and that it is time to face a great unknown of what comes next.
Louise Erdich’s Future Home of the Living God reveals what faith requires of us when confronting our own mortality and spiritual relevance, and to this layer, it adds a context of social and political unrest and the balance of human rights. Cedar, as a protagonist, is a beautifully multi-faceted woman. As she seeks comfort in her biological mother Sweetie and her family on the reservation, she struggles to match it with her upbringing as the adoptee of a liberal, financially comfortable white family. Cedar remains cool, collected, and hopeful, even in the most trying of times, and she regularly declares her own agency over her body. Defiant and optimistic, she vows to be a compassionate mother, writing the novel as a letter to her unborn. She reflects on her family with grace and understanding, and strives to appreciate the sacrifice and giving nature of others. She speaks with a strong, spunky voice that is never less than enthralling. Her love and passion radiates through the pages, and I sense that Cedar is a true hero of femininity and love in a time of darkness and oppression.
The novel is told in a sophisticated, yet playful prose. The confusion of the apocalyptic events happening within the book string us along with a quiet, subtle suspense. This book is clear on its purpose: it is not a mystery, and there will be no answers to the big questions it presents. What is faith, in the face of evolution? What is the meaning of human life? These timeless mythologies are presented to us with artful symbolism, and the entire story seems to be a foreshadowing of reality if we, as a society, continue down certain trajectories. Erdich, with impressively creative story-telling, forces us to examine what happens when the forces of nature decide to revoke our right to exist, evolve, and adapt as we have for centuries.
As Erdich presents this world of the unknown, this expanse of mass confusion and spiritual panic, she is shy about giving us too many details. It is often stated that evolution has stopped, reversed, or skipped around altogether, and the ramifications of this is only briefly brought to our attention. Cedar and Phil watch their backyard as a “saber-toothy cat” jumps from the Minnesota forest , attacks a Labrador, and climbs up a tree to savor the carcass. Aside from a few exotic bird sightings and observations of new plant formations, this is the most action we see from the wild landscape that we are told is taking root. If a giant panther leaped into my backyard and ate a neighborhood pet, I would have a lot more to say about it than Cedar did. Erdich’s world-building is lean, at best, and in a dystopic setting, the devil is in the details. Similarly, I would’ve appreciated if more light was shed on the mysterious agencies that were so freely allowed to imprison and murder mass amounts of women with no check or balance. I was left with many questions about how power shifted into such malicious hands. The threats confronting Cedar and her family were somewhat questionable; as a reader, there was very little to be afraid of besides the looming uncertainties of biology.
Disclaimer: this review was incredibly hard to organize in my head. I had a lot of feelings with this novel, but mainly just a thirst to learn more! Erdrich could quite competently write an entire series with this premise. Despite the thin context surrounding the impending end of the world, Erdich delivers a beautiful story rooted deeply spiritual and personal ideas. It would be more rewarding to see many atmospheric choices and character decisions fleshed out, instead of to be taken at face value, but this story doesn’t have many flaws-only a few added details that would be clarifying. Cedar is a fiery protagonist, with many firm ideas blended together by her heritage. She stands by her beliefs and is unyielding in her hope. She promises the world to her unborn child, and she fights her hardest to deliver him forth into an questionable future. Her inner strength and unwavering belief in herself and in humanity keeps her spirit from dying out as she flees from her fear. Erdich’s novel may serve as a warning of what may come. Future of the Living God reads like a prequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, and although some readers may have posited otherwise, I believe that Erdich has spun an original story with a unique backbone, and that any comparisons to Margaret Atwood are only a sign of this story’s strength.