Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich


Rating: ★

Apologies, as I’ve been absent.  It’s been a ho-ho-hectic holiday. This is the first predominantly negative book review I’m leaving on this blog, and I want to make note that this was the only book I only gave a single star to this year. It’s also one of the most detailed reviews I’ve written (because you know- it’s easier to critique than praise for some strange reason).

I’m giving this one star out of spite. Here I sit, 1:30 AM trying to force myself to finish while watching Friends re-runs just so I could put myself back in the habit of reading. Warning: this is a spoiler heavy review. I can’t really tell you why I hated it without spoiling it so read at your own risk.

Content warnings: childbirth, stillbirth, torture, forced impregnation (not rape), drug use, depression, talk of suicide, and a weird, casual reference to pedophilia…

The quick and dirty gist of it: the world is “devolving”.  Plants and animals have mutated out of control.  Human beings aren’t born quite human.  The world is ending.  Cedar Hawke is pregnant during this time.  She is writing a journal to her unborn child.

I didn’t mind most of the novel. Yeah it was slow. No I didn’t appreciate the weekly updates on brain neurons and baby size and muscle tissue and fingernail growth. No I didn’t even like the endless prattling prose about nature.

I ain’t cultured enough for that shit.

But they aren’t my problem. It was the ending that was absolutely unforgivable. I’m grumpy right now so here goes the really, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing, that I am going to say: I would have preferred that Cedar died.

Not knowing what happened to her, or worse, imagining her stuck in that birthing prison for life, is absolutely the worst fucking ending that has ever been fucking written. It wasn’t shocking. It didn’t make you feel anything (except rage). I didn’t want to sit and ponder the fucking book for hours later.

I really wanted to just finish a single book. That’s all I wanted. Why? Why in the hell did I pick this one? I don’t know. Here’s what I can tell you: if you don’t like part one, do not bother with the rest. It does not get better.

Enough about that, here’s a few other things I’d like to comment on:

The format. It’s divided into three parts. No chapters.

Do you know how to make a slow book s l o w e r?

By not putting any chapter breaks in it.

The premise.
The world is ending because “reverse evolution” is happening. Except it’s not. Sure that’s how it’s sold to you. We’re never given any proof of it. Babies are supposed to be born with deformities, oddly shaped, too big, I don’t know. The one baby we see born it’s shape and size are never commented on. So as far as I can see mostly the human race is just dying. Nature is growing out of control. All the foods we eat don’t produce actual food anymore. Somehow I have a hard time believing nothing else edible came out of reverse evolution, but you know, whatevs.

The characters:
Flat. Boring. No growth and not much personality. I cared about Cedar only because you spend so much time in the woman’s head… but she wasn’t particularly likable in any way. Any time she started fighting with dear old Mom I just wanted to smack her. Sera calls her spoiled and obnoxious at one point. That seems pretty accurate to me. Her motivations really don’t make any sense. She’s pregnant because she just wanted a baby. Just like that! She’s Catholic mostly because she felt like being contrary one day.

The world building:
I actually don’t have anything negative to say about this. I loved the idea of the underground networks and resistance movements. I loved the idea of nature going out of control and reclaiming the Earth. Wished I’d seen more of it.

The memoir:
Eddy’s memoir.. the one where he writes a daily entry about why he didn’t kill himself that day? Every time it came up, I literally groaned. It was all very poetic. And I hated every last word of it. A novel this depressing doesn’t need anything to make it more depressing.

The Title:
Is completely nonsensical and has nothing to do with the book. Are you expecting this baby to somehow save the human race? Ha! Don’t hold your breath. That’s what I get for having expectations. The title makes me feel like I just got trolled. HARD.

The ending:
Sure I already talked about this- but aside from that is just very poorly done. It’s like the author didn’t know how to get out of it so she smashed a bunch of scenes together just to put herself out of her misery. Mother shows up, almost catches Cedar. Phil shows up, brings Cedar to the gas station, parks the car in the woods, then Cedar goes in the gas station, calls Eddy, and Phil drives off. WHAT WAS THE POINT? I half expected someone to tell her she imagined the whole thing. I felt like I imagined the whole thing because it was so confusing and felt so rushed where the rest of the novel seemed content to take it’s sweet, sweet time. I guess we just HAD to get back to talking about babies and dragonflies and suicide.

I want to add that because I can be very dense- my reading buddies took a lot more from this novel than I did (you can find the discussion here).  I am woman enough to admit when I missed the point.  I missed the point.  Even re-reading that discussion and all the points my fabulous buddy readers made, I don’t think I get it.  The trouble is- the book was so slow (less than 300 pages felt a lot closer to 400) that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the ambiguous and incoherent message the author was trying to get across.

Just to clarify, a lot of this book was a solid 3 star read for me, but never any more. The ending is the predominant reason that in retrospect I’m giving the whole book a single star.

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