Future Home of the Living God is a thought-provoking and unsettling book that centers on one impossible premise– the sudden reversal of evolution– and builds around it an eerily possible dystopian world.
The novel is formatted as a series of journal entries written by Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a young woman four months pregnant at the outset of this global catastrophe. Finding herself in a dangerous new militant America that is rounding up all pregnant women for study, Cedar makes her way with the help of both her adoptive parents, a white hippie couple from suburban Minneapolis, and her recently-rediscovered Ojibwe birth family, who own a Superpumper on a northern Minnesota reservation.
Comparisons between this book and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are unavoidable, as both novels deal with dystopian religious hegemony and reproductive freedoms. But Future Home of the Living God more than holds up as a spiritual successor, deftly handling these themes together with others that occupy Louise Erdrich’s earlier books, such as Native American identity and reservation border politics.
Handmaid’s Tale is a classic for a reason, but Future Home definitely benefits from the added dimension of race, a topic neglected almost entirely in Atwood’s iconic work. In a story about the government’s mistreatment and internment of pregnant women and their invasion of those women’s bodily autonomy, their similar treatment of indigenous and other marginalized peoples, both historically and currently, cannot be neglected. And in a world in which childbirth and human identity are themselves fundamentally changing, Cedar’s struggles to navigate her double families and double identity are especially meaningful.
An unsettling read, but a vastly interesting and vital one.
Future Home of the Living God is in stores now. (Harper, $28.99, ISBN 0062694057).