Louise Erdrich’s dystopic novel, Future Home of the Living God, contains many elements familiar to her readers: Native and Catholic spirituality, expansive Midwestern vistas, and journals of a woman with a deep internal life. Future Home is the incarnational story of Cedar, the adopted daughter of Minnesotan liberals, whose Native American heritage was both honored and fetishized in her childhood. As an adult, Cedar finds herself with child in a rapidly changing world, where every childbirth is a danger to both mother and baby. The government begins seizing pregnant women to observe their progress and kidnap their newborns. Cedar, a writer and editor, catalogs her life in journals written to her unborn child.
With the help of a friend, Cedar hides her pregnancy for months before she is taken. Fiercely, she and another abductee escape the prison with the help of Cedar’s adoptive mother. In her quest to make sense of the world, Cedar finds her biological family, living on a reservation, and hides with them.
The language of the entire novel reveals Erdrich’s extensive knowledge of Christianity, and the book was released just in time for Advent in November 2017. Cedar’s descent into madness, a literary device used since the days of Greek tragedy, builds an unreliable narration that is both sweeping and minute. This detailed and expansive narrative creates a sense of particularity and universality, which encapsulates the Advent story. Reading of Cedar’s pregnancy in the apocalypse breathes into Mary’s story, where her out-of-wedlock pregnancy should have meant death. This is relived by global women every year, and the experience of incarnation is real for all of us who have bodies.
Ultimately, Future Home is an untamed imagining of the Incarnation, a catalog of womanhood in dangerous times, and a worshipful examination of the world as God’s future home in the new creation.
But in my mind I answer her, swinging in the blackness, my heart pumping fast with a love that is burning richer and hotter with every fresh new cell of blood, every icy flash of neuron, a love of you, a love of everything. Fierce, merciless, sticking to the world like blazing tar, this love expands. And I’m thinking–of course you will be happy when you see my baby, yes, you will be overjoyed. He is the light of the world!
Disclaimer: Future Home of the Living God is not orthodox (by any definition) in its theology, since it is somewhat syncretistic and Cedar speaks of her unborn child as the “light of the world.” However, we do not go to novels to form our theology, and the incarnational experience of Future Home is worth the questions raised.