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Quotes from all of the big book industry expos have publishers and booksellers warning that the *unpredictable Republican president has opened a bull market for warnings of dystopia.* Louise Erdrich, speaking at a Harper Collins dinner in June 2017, recalled for the crowd how Trump's win drove her to take another look at a novel she had set aside years earlier, prior to writing The Plague of Doves (published 2008). *Future Home of the Living God, coming out this fall, tells of a society in which women's rights and democracy itself are endangered.*
For this novel the audio format is the perfect choice. Cedar Hawk Songmaker is dictating a letter to the 4 mo. old fetus she is carrying, so the listener hears what this 26 yr. old pregnant woman feels is most important to pass along to her child, uncensored and intimate. This is *a perilous time in the history of creation,* she begins, hinting at a world that, more suddenly than ever imagined, seems to be plummeting backward through evolution. Imagine riding a roller coaster and racing forward to that summit then at the very crest suddenly finding yourself rolling backwards watching the world revert to it's primitive forms as you pick up speed. Perilous, vulnerable, unstable, risky, even hazardous.
The parallel themes Erdrich weaves into the story seem to wind around every fact. With so many undercurrents beneath the surface story, a lazy listener could easily miss the urgency and substance here. Cedar talks to her baby about its development...*at the end of the 4 weeks the nervous system, spinal cord, liver, and kidneys start taking shape; at 8 weeks, bones, nose, eyelids, and toes start appearing and most of your organs are in place; you can respond to touch at this stage; by 5 months, you are over one-third of the size you will be at full term and show sensitivity to light, and respond to sound. . .* It's chilling to hear when weighted by the parallel deterioration of humanity. Cedar is on her way to meet her Ojibwe biological family. The parents that have raised her are citified Budhists, vegans; she herself converted to Catholicism. She informs her baby that it's a hot winter day as she drives through Minnesota, a dragonfly with a 3 ft. wingspan buzzes passed her windshield. She wonders if her child will ever see snow.
If you think the story sounds like something you've read before, Margaret Atwood has done this all before, and there are enough similarities to make it nearly impossible not to do some comparing. The Handmaid’s Tale feels more urgent, more contemporary and plausible, and with reason. From Time, Sept. 7 2017: *Atwood challenged herself to only include events in the book that had happened in history. The result was a tale about the future that can, at turns, feel all too contemporary. The story includes an environmental crisis, restrictions on abortion, marches for women’s rights and Americans fleeing to Canada.* Sounds not only similar, but timely. Atwood's advantage is that her story doesn't need to be imagined or extrapolated; it is eerily prescient. And...that was in 1984, with Ronald Wilson Reagan serving as the 40th President of the United States.
Fans of Erdrich will probably enjoy this book. It has her always elegant touch and insight, but feel in someways like it falls short of her other novels. For those that like a dystopian tale, you could possibly get tired of the religious themes and theologies that dominate the story instead of the details of a world falling into chaos. We might all agree that the ending was just plain old suck-y.
Latin line from Handmaid’s Tale: *Nolite te bastardes carborundorum* (Don’t let the bastards grind you down).
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I kept expecting it to develop...but didn't. In fact, variations of the same thing seemed to happen over and over (capture, escape, capture, escape). Was truly disappointed since it was recommended by people I usually agree with. I love dystopian novels but this one left me wanting for more.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful