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Review: Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

In her latest work, Erdrich delivers an unexpected, dystopian thriller

Future Home of the Living God

A chilling novel set in a near-dystopian world, Louise Erdrich’s newest work, Future Home of the Living God, is a huge departure for the acclaimed author. Typically, the National Book Award-winner delivers beautifully interwoven stories set on Native American reservations, brimming with familiar characters. This time, echoing society’s current fascination with all things futuristic (think Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale), Erdrich casts her eye on sci-fi and the themes of parenthood and female oppression.

At the heart of Future Home of the Living God is Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a 26-year-old mother-to-be whose letters to her unborn child serve as the story’s first-person narrative. When Cedar, adopted at birth by a pair of Minnesota liberals, learns she is pregnant, she sets out to find her own biological parents. As Cedar’s journey unfolds, however, things take a disturbing turn. Suddenly, Cedar finds herself in a disintegrating world in which a fascist regime has ousted the U.S. Congress and is rounding up and incarcerating pregnant women. Evolution has essentially reversed and women are delivering a primitive species of humans. Streets have been renamed with Bible verses and mothers are being ripped from their families. Once Cedar learns her own fetus is a rare, normal one, she realizes she must do whatever she can to survive and to save her baby. After all, the future of the human race, and the world as we know it, depends on this.

There’s no disputing Future Home of the Living God’s apocalyptic themes are disturbing, its twists harrowing. But what keeps this story relatable—yes, relatable!—is Erdrich’s oft-celebrated gift for creating incredibly rich characters and real, complex relationships. The vivid portrayals of Cedar’s complicated connections with her unborn child, her extended family and her boyfriend (sometimes cloaked with dark humor) will undoubtedly touch a nerve and cause readers to deeply care.

Devoted Erdrich fans will find plenty here that is satisfyingly familiar, particularly the author’s poetic writing. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of reading Erdrich’s works, this would be a good time to start. Though fantasy fiction lovers will be impressed most, Future Home of the Living God is ultimately a haunting tale about two subjects that should appeal to every woman: female rights and human rights.

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Allison Fabian Derfner
Allison Fabian Derfner is a freelance writer and editor who served most recently as Features Director at Harper’s Bazaar. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. Allison lives with her family in New York City