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All booksLiterary fictionFuture Home of the Living God
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
Literary fiction

Future Home of the Living God

by Louise Erdrich

Quick take

Rather than merely capturing the horror of such circumstances, Erdrich also offers her characters and readers the comfort of radical love.

Why I love it

Tavi Gevinson
Guest Judge

"The first thing that happens at the end of the world is that we don’t know what is happening." Like any good dystopian thriller, Future Home of the Living God externalizes present-day anxieties with such imagination that you both forget about your fears and imagine the worst possible manifestation of them. That rare effect begins with the voice of 26-year-old Cedar Songmaker, our warm, chatty narrator and hand-holder through the apocalypse. What starts as writing letters to her unborn child becomes a way for Cedar to think through the unthinkable. Louise Erdrich can see through Cedar's eyes so completely and clearly that even her white hot panic can be articulated. The circuit from Cedar’s heart to her brain to her sentences is as short as can be—immediate but thorough, startled but precise, and one of the last things she can call her own.

Rather than merely capturing the horror of such circumstances, Erdrich also offers her characters and readers the comfort of radical love. Makeshift families become the only way to cherish the last days of humanity. The characters surrounding Cedar become your loves, too. My favorite parts of the book were her biological mother’s husband’s daily treatises on why to not kill yourself (he, too, uses writing to feel his way along the darkened hallway of humanity’s future): "Who says any complexity is irreducible? IT IS BEING REDUCED ALL AROUND US RIGHT NOW." Just not in this beautiful book.

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Louise Erdrich, the author of bestselling novels including 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. Thirty-two-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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Member thoughts

All (1615)
All (1615)
Love (395)
Like (806)
Dislike (414)
1724 ratings
  • 23% Love
  • 47% Like
  • 24% Dislike
  • Chicago, IL

    A more realistic "Handmaid's Tale" postulating that climate change will result in more and more conflicts, from the hyperlocal to the global. I found the "backwards evolution" conceit underdeveloped.

  • Bellflower, CA

    Erdich never disappoints me, at least not until the end of this book, which was so depressing and sad that I'm still trying to decide if I'm glad I read the book. Ok, I am, the writing is wonderful.

  • Dallas , TX

    This was a different read for me, but I do love anything tied to a post apocalyptic/ dystopian threads. I was pleasantly surprised at home much I enjoyed this book. It may help that I am a new mama.

  • Austin, TX

    There are a lot of criticisms for basically every part of this novel, but I disagree with them all. This book was lovely, and although it broke my heart, it was unique and is a new favorite of mine.

  • Brooklyn, NY

    Perhaps because this book is so timely--in a world where reproductive rights and government infringement on our bodies is more and more of a daily concern, books like these are even more important.

  • Chico, CA

    A powerful novel that never took the expected turn. I spent a lot of time wanting to shake Cedar for her unwillingness to be cautious, but her journey felt completely honest from start to finish.

  • San Antonio, TX

    This book had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, my anxiety was at its highest. As a mother I couldn’t imagine having to endure this. So heartbreaking and sad, such a horrifying situation.

  • Hanna City, IL

    Quintessential dystopian fiction! Unfolds slowly, and you’re never quite sure how much you can trust the narrator is speaking literally or figuratively, giving a dash of magic realism to the feel.

  • Fullerton, CA

    It's a story that's been told before, but it still felt fresh and worthwhile. Beautiful and heartbreaking, as all good dystopian novels should be. Definitely checking out Erdrich's other books now.

  • San Diego, CA

    This was my favorite book from this year!! So thought-provoking and suspenseful in the best way! This very near-future distopian reality makes you really reflect on your own actions too. LOVED it!

  • Elk Grove, CA

    Erdrich described a not-so unimaginable dystopian future that I could imagine being the next binge-worthy Netflix series. I NEED to know how Earth got to this point and what's in store for Cedar!!!

  • New York, NY

    The writing was jarring at first with the second person narrative, and yet after the first 50 pgs, it became seamless. The ending ripped my entire heart out. So many beautiful images throughout.

  • Indianapolis, IN

    I was compelled by this story. It evoked so many emotions and introduced me to some "not so far from the realm of possibility" realities. Thanks for giving me some food for thought! Great read.

  • Houston , TX

    The overarching theme describing our origins as a species and how we fizzle out of existence is incredibly thought provoking, this book inspired me to read anthro and paleo papers on the topic.

  • Denver, CO

    Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors and this book quickly became one of my favorites amongst her collection. Erdrich's novel creates various perspectives that all point to a collective.

  • Herriman, UT

    I would've liked more science (I'm such a biology nerd), but it's a great book that pulls you right in to Cedar's head while she navigates this dangerous dystopia. Very intimate and intriguing

  • Cincinnati , OH

    Some good books exist only within their pages, but I continued to think about this one long after I finished it. Rarely do realistic characters blend so seamlessly into a surreal environment.

  • Naugatuck, CT

    I really enjoyed reading this and I enjoyed reading a book by an author which such language. They way she writes is almost poetic, especially the way she ties in the Native American aspects.

  • Knoxville, TN

    Louise Erdrich doesn’t write light weight books. In the tradition of the Handmaids Tale and other dystopian novels dealing with women’s issues this one hits close to home. Great read.

  • Walnut Creek, CA

    This story reminded me of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and was riveting from start to finish. The story was thought-provoking and left me with more than one nightmare. Unexpected ending.

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