Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
The Chancellor has June’s book club pick for our friend group, and he chose Future Home of the Living God, much to my enormous delight. I read and reviewed this about seven months ago for CBR 9, so I am going to plunk that link right here and just talk about my response for this re-read. Because I loved it even more than the first time I read it. I think we’re going to have a rollicking discussion this month, because a few of us loved it, and The Chancellor DID NOT.
This time around, the theme of uncertainty really came alive. Cedar does not know what is happening. The news is full of rumor, falsehood, and heresay (sound familiar?). She does not know whom to trust or to turn. The novel is her first-person diary to her unborn child, because she wants to remember the world and so that her child can remember her, whatever the circumstances may be. But Cedar is thrust into a lot of unknowns, and the world-building reflects this idea. I personally really liked that, because Cedar does not know how her own story ends and neither do we. We are living in a dark and scary world at the moment (and reading about the G-7 yesterday filled my stomach with rocks), and we don’t know how this particular story is going to end. Erdrich is very deliberate in ending on an unfinished note, because she wants to remind us that our own stories are being written as we write them, and we can’t know until much later how everything turns out. (there is a very sad interpretation as to why the story ends the way it does, but I won’t discuss it, for fear of spoiling things)
Another thing I liked was the concept of faith or losing one’s faith. Cedar is a newish Catholic, and she’s grappling with the idea of being abandoned by God. This is something that Elie Wiesel tackles proficiently in Night, and something that all people of faith wrestle with when terrible things happen in life. Cedar’s own spiritual struggles and reliance upon writers like Hildegard von Bingen were poignant and powerful.
The book has drawn a lot of comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale on Goodreads. I can kind of see it (I myself made a few comparisons to Children of Men), but I do think that Erdrich tackles issues of race in a way that Atwood does not conceive of.