‘Future Residence Of The Living God’ Is A Rare Stumble From AN EXCELLENT Writer
Louise Erdrich is, certainly, one of America’s greatest novelists. Her genius was evident early in her profession – her 1984 debut novel, Love Medicine, drew extensive critical acclaim and gained her a National Reserve Critics Circle Award. In the following years, she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for The Plague of Doves, and won a National Reserve Award for The Round Property. She’s proved herself to be a brilliant writer who can perform almost anything.
“Nearly” is the key term here. Erdrich’s gift idea for creativity has paid off previously, but her latest novel, Foreseeable future Residence of the Living God, is an overreaching, usually bizarre book that hardly ever really comes close to getting off the ground. It’s not going to tarnish Erdrich’s unbelievably achieved profession – it’s hard to assume anything doing that, brief of her body-slamming Philip Roth after establishing fire to the Library of Congress – but it does demonstrate that possibly the country’s best writers stumble every occasionally.
Future Residence of the Living God, apparently occur the near future, follows Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a generically quirky 26-year-old Native American girl moving into Minnesota. Her adoptive father and mother happen to be “Minneapolis liberals” and “happily married vegans” with a distaste for faith that works counter to Cedar’s lately acquired intellectual make of Catholicism. She’s lately made connection with her birth mom, who lives on a reservation with Cedar’s meth-addled half-sister, a character – well, a quasi-plot product – who disappears for much of the novel, only to resurface later for reasons that are unclear.
Cedar’s lifestyle has been happy plenty of, and she encounters two pieces of surprising news. The foremost is that she’s pregnant. The second reason is that America is quickly coming to learning to be a hellish nightmare dystopia, with biological evolution starting to reverse itself and a religious totalitarian movement aiming to have control of the federal government.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Cedar: Babies have started being born with uncommon characteristics, and today shadowy government squads are imprisoning pregnant women, hoping to determine what’s causing all the terrifying changes. Cedar is forced to lie low with her father and mother and with Phil, the father of her unborn kid, who warns her, “They’re offering rewards now for anybody who turns in a pregnant neighbor, acquaintance, family member, whatever.”
Cedar’s independence doesn’t last long, and the rest of Future Residence of the Living God tells the account of her desperate attempts to escape the hospital in which she’s imprisoned. Erdrich, as ever, is gifted at pacing; the novel has the structure of an effective thriller.
But that’s essentially all it has going for it. The writing is oddly flat, and once in a while inexplicable. In one section, Erdrich dedicates a paragraph to Cedar’s food shopping (she likes apples and wheat crackers), which somehow turns out a lot more boring than it sounds. It appears like it’s meant to humanize Cedar, but a fondness for mozzarella cheese is not a substitute for real character development, which is curiously lacking in the novel.
Erdrich’s gift for creativity has paid off previously, but her latest novel … is an overreaching, usually bizarre book that hardly ever really comes close to getting off the ground.
An excessive amount of the novel reads like stoned dorm place philosophizing; Erdrich’s writing could be pretty, but it’s all too often unclear what accurately she’s discussing. “Evolution starts off: a miracle,” reads one passage. “Evolution stops: a miracle. Existence follows the routine of the vastness all around us. The universe is growing and contracting in timeless period.” It’s poetic in its own way, but unfortunately, that approach is “prog-rock band B-side from 1976.”
The most frustrating part of Future Home of the Living God, however, is Erdrich’s failure to make clear exactly what’s happening. It’s hardly ever really clear, possibly by the finish of the novel, what happened to cause the reversal of evolution, or, certainly, what that possibly means. The vagueness is obviously intentional, but it is also inexplicable, and it creates the novel nearly impossible to parse. “The initial thing that happens at the end of the community is that people don’t know what is happening,” she writes. But neither will the reader, and that’s a problem.
Future Residence of the Living God is a good deeply frustrating novel, all the more as a result because Erdrich is capable of much better than this. It’s hard never to give her credit rating when planning on taking a risk, but this specific risk only doesn’t pay back. Erdrich’s latest novel may be a well-intentioned disaster, but it doesn’t modification her status among the country’s virtually all gifted writers of fiction.