Book Review: Future Home of the Living God

futurehomeFuture Home of the Living God
Louise Erdrich
Dystopia
288 pages
November 2017

Well that was a waste of time. This book spends its entire length asking one real question. Will the main character’s baby survive? There are a number of smaller questions – Will the baby be born normal? Why is evolution turning backwards, or sideways? What happened to the main character’s father? What happened to her friend from the hospital? What happened to her husband? Does she ever find freedom?

THE BOOK ANSWERS NONE OF THESE QUESTIONS.

I am really frustrated with this book. Why did I bother reading it if it refuses to resolve any of its plotlines?

We’re going to get a little bit into writing theory here. It has been a classic recommendation to have the climax of your book 2/3 of the way through the book, and have the last third be denouement. Wrap-up. Show us how the climax affected the characters and the world. John Green does this well – all his books follow a standard plot line. Character A is introduced. A meets B. B changes A’s life. B leaves A’s life. (Those last two are usually incorporated in the climax of the book.) A has to learn how to live without B in a world changed by B’s existence in it. It’s a little formulaic, but it works for Green, and his books are great. Some books do not do this so well. Wheel of Time had 5-6 pages of denouement after the series climax, and nothing was really revealed about how the events changed the world for the better. Future Home of the Living God had TWO. TWO PAGES AFTER THE CLIMAX. AND THEY ANSWER NOTHING. The main character talks about missing winter.

I finished the book and almost threw it across the room. I probably would have, except for two things: I was at a friend’s house, and it was a library book. That’s all that saved it from that fate. I have stacks of books I want to read, and I feel like I just wasted a few hours on this piece of crap.

The writing was actually pretty good, and the main character is an Ojibwe Indian, so there’s minority representation, but the book as a whole was just CRAP. Wrap up your plotlines. Answer the questions you ask. (At least the ones having to do with your plot – you can leave unanswered philosophical questions, that’s fine.)

Hard pass on this book.

From the cover of 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.

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded 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 living on the reservation, 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.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

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