We witness this societal meltdown through the journal entries of Cedar Hawk Songmaker (née Mary Potts), who is part Ojibwe Indian but grew up by Volvo-driving liberal parents in Minneapolis.
Cedar is 26 and pregnant – she resembles the Area O’Lakes butter maiden, we are told – and need to hide from spies and drones and dust-want observational motes.
“Future Home of the Living God” – the title comes from a good roadside church sign – is a good feverish and somewhat feeble novel. Erdrich’s heart isn’t actually in her dystopian visions, and this novel’s moments of chases and escapes happen to be hokey and feel produced from films.
Erdrich has written better about pregnancy – see “The Blue Jay’s Dance: A good Memoir of Early Motherhood” (1995) – and used the diary form to more striking effect in her 2010 novel “Shadow Tag.”
Cedar is a good seeker, a good convert to Catholicism with a good more-than-vestigial interest found in Native American spirituality. To learn this novel is normally to wade through a great many solemnities on the purchase of:
“Certainly we are experiencing a reverse incarnation. An activity where the spirit of the divine becomes lost in individual physical nature. Perhaps the spark of divinity, which we encounter as consciousness, is being reabsorbed into the boundless creativity of seething opportunistic existence.”
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That, and ladybugs are now the size of cats.
The funny thing about this not-very-very good novel is that we now have so many very good small things in it. Erdrich is normally such a gifted and (when she wants to be) earthy writer; her sentences can flash with wit and feeling, sunbursts of her creativity.
There’s a good sex scene that occurs backstage at a church finding your way through a Christmas play. The person and woman try on various outfits, making love while dressed as angels and Good Guys and Herod and gay shepherds.
And witness this moment, when Cedar watches her adoptive mom, a determined vegetarian, forced to eat a hot dog since it is an important gift:
“Sera has often held forth on the 39 different deadly carcinogens contained in cheap hot dogs like the one she is keeping now. The nitrates happen to be implicated in esophageal and tummy cancer, the reddish dyes in systemic foul-ups, the binding agents happen to be bad as warfarin, and among the preservatives there is normally formaldehyde. And then there is the meat itself. Pet scourings. Neural and spinal materials likely to support the prions that transmit Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Hog lips, snout, anus, penile sheaths, jowls, inner ears.”
Cedar’s mom is a Buddhist, but alas she does not ask the giver of the warm dog to make her 1 with everything. Cedar does report a bumper sticker that reads, “Come the Rapture MAY I Have YOUR VEHICLE?”
Even when Erdrich isn’t in top form, her literature are readable, in the sense that even though Emmylou Harris sings second-rate materials it sounds pretty good.
De-evolution. We’ve approached this idea in fiction before, notably in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Galápagos” (1985). For the reason that novel, human beings develop smaller sized brains – our big types were leading us to destroy the community – along with flippers and beaks.
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Vonnegut’s narrator, Leon Trout, spoke to the benefits associated with these rollbacks. “It is hard to imagine anybody’s torturing anybody in these modern times. How could you even capture someone you wished to torture with only your flippers as well as your mouth?”
Erdrich picks up upon this idea aswell. “Stupidity is an excellent technique for survival,” Cedar writes in her diary. “Our level of intelligence could be a maladaptation, an incorrect turn, an aberration.”
Without doubt there is more stupidity on earth now than there is even a year ago. It is hard to see this development, at the moment, at the very least, as a species-extensive survival approach. Cedar says: “We’re climbing back down the swimming-pool ladder into the primordial soup.”
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By the end of the novel, things have deteriorated everywhere. Yet a complete society has flourished in tunnels and caves under St. Paul. And the region’s Native People in america have started to reclaim their ancestral land.
They are prepared to conduct, in a turnabout on the Orwellian language governments have employed on them, “compassionate removal of non-tribal people.”
Signs or symptoms and portents, auguries and premonitions. Erdrich’s novel is normally packed with them, push notices from an onrushing nightmare. One identity says, in this novel’s virtually all pungent snippet of dialogue, “We ain’t on no GPS, and Siri’s dead.”