Louise Erdrich Delivers A good Dystopian Feminist Thriller Found in ‘Future Home’
Before I finally found and read Louise Erdrich’s fresh novel, called Future Home of the Living God, there is a mighty obstacle that had to be faced – an obstacle called The Handmaid’s Tale. After Margaret Atwood’s magisterial accomplishment, is there really space for another dystopian feminist novel about the overthrow of democracy by a Christian fundamentalist regime that enslaves fertile ladies and minimizes them to simple vessels of procreation?
The somewhat unsettling answer is “Sure!”
Erdrich reminds us here that the unthinkable could happen in many ways. Rather than standing up in the shadow of Atwood’s traditional, Erdrich’s tense and lyrical new function of speculative fiction stands shoulder-to-braced-shoulder most suitable alongside it.
Future Home of the Living God is loosely structured due to a series of letters that our heroine, a 26-year-old woman named Cedar Hawk Songmaker, writes to her unborn kid. Cedar is normally impelled to create these letters because, well, something weird is certainly going on.
Nature has doubled backside on itself and crops and pets or animals and fetuses seem to come to be randomly devolving. Pregnant women are being curved up by brokers of the new religious government, named “The Church of the New Constitution.” The women give birth in prison-like maternity hospitals and, afterwards, it seems they may face another of enforced serial pregnancies. But no one is certain because, as one character shrewdly comments, “One thing that happens towards the end of the community is that we don’t understand what is happening.”
Complicating the previously fraught subject of motherhood in this kind of novel is the fact that Cedar was created to an Ojibwe woman, but was adopted as an infant by a couple whom your woman refers to as light “Minneapolis liberals” – parents whom Cedar loves just as much as your woman mocks. Ironically, Cedar Hawk Songmaker has discovered that her name at birth was the usual Mary Potts.
Because she’s pregnant, Cedar feels an urgency about connecting with her birth mom. She requires to the street on an odyssey right into a panicked America where persons are starting to hoard cigarettes and liquor for barter, and are dumping their mobile phones and laptop computers. They’re time for un-hackable modes of communication, like moving handwritten notes and sending word via the Indigenous American network referred to as “the moccasin telegraph.”
In some of her more recent novels just like the Plague of Doves and The Round House, Erdrich has been edging over into literary suspense and, boy, does her achieved mastery of pacing, cliffhangers and depictions of physical violence come in helpful here.
The only thing that’s ungainly about Future Home of the Living God is its title; usually it’s a streamlined dystopian thriller. Plus a series of jittery get away and fight scenes, Erdrich conjures up a 12-page description when a pregnant good friend of Cedar’s, who’s hiding out in a cave, goes into labor. It’s a scene that’s matchless in its precision and terror.
Also scattered throughout this breathless novel are beautiful meditative passages where Cedar, in those letters to her baby, considers the world eliminated wrong and the approaching apocalypse. Here’s one:
We are so short. A one-time dandelion. A seedpod skittering over the ice. We are a feather falling from the wing of a bird. I don’t know why it is directed at us to be consequently mortal and feel so much. This is a cruel trick, and glorious.
In a postscript, Erdrich tells her visitors that she initial hatched the idea for Future Home of the Living God on a highway trip with her daughters in 2001. Plainly, as the widespread heightened appreciation of The Handmaid’s Tale shows, it is the right cultural instant for feminist dystopian fiction. That’s very good news, at least for literature.