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Future Home of the Living God

by Louise Erdrich

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1787014,033 (3.53)69
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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Atwood did it first and best, but Erdrich's contemporary update of a reproductive dystopia run under the veneer of religious fervor is equally chilling and a little more realistic. ( )
  IVLeafClover | Jun 21, 2022 |
Was going to give this book 2.5/3 stars but the last line was so epic it bumped it way up to 4. It really hit me hard.

There's a lot to like about this book. I like the premise and the language and all the philosophical sciencey gibberish, but something about the main character just didn't connect with me at all. Maybe because she was two things I've never been nor wanted to be: religious and pregnant. But I've read all sorts of books about people completely different from me that I connected to. That's kinda the point of books. There was also a big part of her story that I do share with her: we're both adopted. But that was maybe the part of the story that fell the most flat for me. Her reuniting with her birth mother just felt so matter-of-fact and was described in philosophical rather than emotional terms. I had the hardest time feeling her emotions in the moments that I have the most personal experience with, which is weird.

There's also the fact that especially near the end this book kept focusing on the mystical bond between mother and fetus and between women (more accurately people with uteri but that's not acknowledged in the book) solely because of their ability to have babies. There's literally a "women's song" that all women instinctively know and only women sing. I could handle all the Catholic stuff the main character went on about because I find the reasons that people are drawn to religion fascinating and there was a critical eye towards people using religion to exploit vulnerable people in times of crisis, but I can't stand all that women's intuition crap. I'm particularly surprised because the author was critical of the way white people assume that Native people are "closer to nature". Doesn't she see how both ideas that Native people have a mystical connection to the land and that women "just know" are part of the same ideology that says that white men are superior because of their better ability to "reason" and "think rationally" while placating marginalised groups with stories about how we're superior to them in some "lesser" form of knowledge? I feel like I must have missed something and have been trying to come up with excuses like maybe the women's song bit is a sign that she's giving into the cult that's using these narratives to exploit women but I've read it over a few times and it happens very literally and she has thoughts like these earlier on, particularly in relation to just knowing things about her fetus, so I don't know.

This is especially disappointing because the author clearly knows a lot about science and is very invested in it. As a biologist who loves sci-fi I've gotten very good at suspension of disbelief. It doesn't matter to me if the cause of the apocalypse isn't biologically possible if the story and characters are compelling and it gives me a fun thought experiment of "wait, would that be biologically possible?" In this case the apocalypse is that suddenly all animals including humans start having offspring that are going "backwards" evolutionarily. Is that possible? No. But the author clearly knows this and spends some time explaining that there is no linear "forwards" or "backwards" in evolution which is miles better than most people's understanding of evolution. And she also throws in all these asides on different sciencey things about rocks and stars and fetal development with faffy philosophical musings and I'm just a sucker for that stuff even if it is ultimately kinda meaningless to the story.

But the fact that she dwells so much on actual science means that the things that don't make sense bother me more. For example, this "devolution" has only been happening for a few months when the main character sees a saber-toothed cat kill and eat a Labrador. This confused me because modern big cats take around 2 years to reach their full size and hunt on their own. It bothered me so much I had to look it up and scientists think Smilodon took 3 years to reach their full size so there's no way this cat could have been born only a few months ago and is now on its own and hunting large dogs. This really took me out of the story and I couldn't stop thinking about how since it's in Minnesota its mother must have been a cougar and would a cougar recognise a saber-toothed cub as her own and if she did would she be able to teach the cub to hunt? They have very different teeth which must mean different hunting styles as I don't think a saber-tooth could latch on to prey with its teeth the way a cougar does to subdue it. Maybe it could learn to hunt small prey but a Lab is pretty big, bigger than a cougar at 6 months old and most likely bigger than a Smilodon at 6 months, and so on. These kinds of mistakes aren't usually a big problem for me as they're fun to think about but there was so much accurate science that it stood out and took me out of the story a bit.

So overall I guess if the main character's philosophising had been balanced with a bit more emotionality and if it hadn't all turned into this big pregnant-women-having-a-psychic-connection thing at the end I would have really liked this book. And as I said that last line really hit home. ( )
  ElspethW | Feb 26, 2022 |
I've read quite a few of Erdrich's novels and in fact now two in a row. This one takes a slight off-road direction as it delves into a dystopian future where evolution seems to be reversing. Cedar, our 26 year old pregnant narrator, is writing to her unborn child, and through her diary, we follow along the time it takes for her to deliver. However the world is in Mad Max mode; pregnant girls are rounded up so that their pregnancies can be monitored and their babies taken. "City Hall is now the headquarters of the Unborn Protection Society. The old UPS trucks haul people there." There are aspects of The Handmaid's Tale here, but enough differences to make it worth reading.
Cedar's journey also includes the finding of her birth mother and the secret father who gave her up to a nice wealthy white family in Minnesota. When she finds her native mother, she also reunites with the ways of her people. Her step-father Eddy, owns a gas station and writes a never ending book of his life in an attempt to stave off suicide. Cedar's story is compelling, as are the references to historical figures and political truths.

Lines from the novel
“I’m afflicted,” he says, half kidding. “I suffer from a chronic melancholy, the sort diagnosed by Hippocrates as an excess of black bile.” Then he tells me that he elects to believe that he shares his condition only with writers like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and great statesmen like Winston Churchill. He doesn’t have the modern sort of depression, he says, the kind that can be treated with selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors. His is the original black dog.

But no more. I have broken precedent, for your father is neither enraged nor depressed. He is not a twisted spiritual advisor. He is not a desperation junkie or a mental health survivor. He is, however, not my type.

and I was fine with it until I read about Native susceptibility to European viruses. Nine of every ten of us died of measles, smallpox, what-have-you. As a descendant of that tough-gened tenth person I had some natural inherent immunity, but still.

Over a hundred million of us until de Soto’s pigs got loose, Pizarro coughed, Captain John Smith sneezed. All that. Diseases killed ninety-nine percent of us.

I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful. I think it may be our strongest quality.

You stared at me, holding on with an implacable strength, and I looked into the soul of the world. ( )
  novelcommentary | Jan 13, 2022 |
I generally seek out books by Erdrich, but this time it was a flop. Two major aspects turned me off: the focus on Catholicism, and what read like a a Right to Life promo for what your baby is doing at any week so you'll see it as a real person. Disappointing ending to a disappointing book.
The main story merges several themes: an adopted woman's attempt to find her real parents; the collapse of American society & it's takeover by the religious right; genetic anomalies world wide among all species (this part poorly developed, if you expect it to follow scientific logic). ( )
  juniperSun | Dec 20, 2021 |
PW
  jmorigeau | Nov 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
The funny thing about this not-very-good novel is that there are so many good small things in it. Erdrich is such a gifted and (when she wants to be) earthy writer; her sentences can flash with wit and feeling, sunbursts of her imagination.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Louise Erdrichprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.
-Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Dedication
To
Gookoomisinaan
Kiizh
Light of my days
First words
August 7
When I tell you that my white name is Cedar Hawk Songmaker and that I am the adopted child of Minneapolis liberals, and that when I went looking for my Ojibwe parents and found that I was born Mary Potts I hid the knowledge, maybe you'll understand.
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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.

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