The Cambridge Geek

Louise Erdrich - Future Home of the Living God

This was one of the books released in November I was most interested in. It had such an interesting blurb. Some unknown event has caused humanity to start evolving backwards (best not to argue with the terminology here,) with the majority of newborn babies that survive having various inhuman features, perhaps neanderthal-like. Animals are also being weird. Our protagonist, Cedar, is pregnant, with what is implied to be some form of superbeing (the implication is in the title).

Unfortunately, the book doesn't deliver any of that. Instead, we get a discovery of the history of Cedar's familial history, being an adopted Native American, raised in a Catholic home. The book deals with themes of parenthood, familial ties and reproductive rights, but absolutely no monsters.

There is a considerable overlap with political themes of the day, with maternal/independence rights currently undergoing another assault over in the states, and in this book this is done in a rather heavy handed manner. Society fell over almost immediately, and was replaced by a theocracy which decided that they'd better lock up any pregnant women and start forcibly inseminating any that managed to produce human offspring. You don't get any background to this, by the way.

This provides the minimal 'thriller' aspect, as Cedar is imprisoned (twice!) and spends various amounts of time trying to escape/hide from the new authorities. It's not very interesting.

Comparisons can fairly obviously be drawn with A Handmaid's Tale. But I've not read the original since secondary school and I've still not watched the apparently excellent adaptation, so maybe it's more different than I remember.

It's written in a very contemplative (read "navel-gazing") style, with heavy consideration of the meaning of family and the importance of looking after children. This is perhaos exemplified by the occasional inclusion of her fictional step-father's diary/novel, which is filled with the reason he hasn't killed himself that day. I'm sure these are filled with subtext and meaning that beautifully reflects and contrasts the main plot, giving us a deeper understanding of the books themes. I'm evidently too stupid to get it.

Characters occasionally appear and disappear without obvious reason, which isn't helped by the poorly defined dream sequences. I still don't know what happened to her father.

In all, it is a book that I was excited to read, and utterly failed to provide me any entertainment. I kept reading it in the hopes that she'd birth some hideous squidasaur that controlled her mind and made her start a cult that worshipped calamari. Don't get your hopes up. That doesn't happen.

Not recommended.

Tagged: Book Magical Realism Post-humans Novel Print