I completed my first required reading in the Female Voices Reading Challenge! Sure this is just one of many more to come but it’s the little things people. I accomplished a small sliver of an overall goal and I feel good about it. It is always the little things.
On my Female Voices reading list is Louise Erdrich. I never read her before now. Nor do I personally know anyone who has read her. (If you have read her people we need to talk because I would love to know your thoughts!) Erdrich has always been an author that “well-read” people rave about. That is probably why I have not read her until now because the “well-read” people made her seem out of my league. I laugh at that now because that intimidation is complete and utter nonsense. I know better now.
I chose to start with Future Home of the Living God which was a 2017 release. I was aware that this was a bit of change from her normal writing style. This book is dystopian. If you are not familiar with that term let me teach you something new! Dystopian literature is a genre of fictional writing used to explore social and political structures in ‘a dark, nightmare world.’
The premise of this novel is that the world has evolved as far as it can go and is reverting back to the start of evolution. Mind you there are no dinosaurs and neanderthals in this novel but hints of such things are there. Birds are nearing extinction and the main character, Cedar, spots a “featherless bird”. Broccoli and cauliflower will no longer grow. Less men are being born successfully. Women are experiencing difficult births. Something is wrong with babies who are being born but the stories of these issues are never confirmed because they are all state secrets. So pregnancy becomes a governmental issue. Pregnant women are required to turn themselves in so that there babies can be delivered under “the best care”. I think you know how that turns out. Our main character discovers that she is pregnant just as the government takes over child-bearing. She goes into hiding. This novel is a diary of sorts that she is writing to her baby and it is a wild ride.
My first impression of Erdrich when I began Future Home of the Living God was ‘wow she is a great writer’. I suppose that was never a doubt in my mind going into this challenge but I was struck by how much I liked her writing style. This novel is broken down into three parts. Part one hooked me. Part two nearly lost me but got me hooked again. Part three left me deflated but that does not mean I was deflated in a bad way. Wouldn’t you feel deflated in a dystopian world? Duh. The world as they knew it was over. The government had drones the size of dust specks spying on you. Pregnant women were being taken from parking lots and being locked away in “hospitals”. The Native Americans are taking back the land the government promised in treaties but reneged on. (Honestly, this was one of the few pluses of this world) Smart phones are in landfills. Sabertooth-esque cats are killing Labradors and dragging them up trees. Neighborhood watch parties are throwing barbecues in order to spy and secretly note your existence. Hello. Stories like this do not have happy endings nor do they have tidy conclusions. You will have questions without the possibility of answers. Why? The narrator does not know the answers therefore we are going through this blind.
This is not my first dystopian novel. I do not normally gravitate toward these novels so I am actually surprised that of all the novels Erdrich has written I went with this one as my first. However, I am glad that I did. Despite having to suspend my beliefs in order to understand this polarizing and strange world I did enjoy the reading experience. I am looking forward to reading more Louise Erdrich in the future. Since I am aiming to read at least two books by the ladies in my Female Voices Challenge I have narrowed my final Erdrich down to these two.
The Round House
An exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.
The Plague of Doves
The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.