It’s already snowing in Minnesota, where Louise Erdrich lives, by mid-October. “We’ve got a snowstorm outside,” she says by telephone, because the connection is poor. “It might be affecting the lines.”
Erdrich, the acclaimed novelist whose 2016 “LaRose” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, likes to maintain clear communication — which is why she prefers to conduct interviews via email. “This is the problem with phone interviews,” she says, a few minutes into an answer. “I start off on tangents.” But she’s articulate, warm and candid as she speaks about her latest book, “Future Home of the Living God” (Harper, $28.99), a complete departure from her previous work. This dystopian novel set in the near-future revolves around Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a young woman who is half-Ojibwe by birth but who has been raised by an Anglo couple named Glen and Sera Songmaker.
Something dire has happened in the world, and it’s affecting all kinds of things, from the food supply to migration patterns to the very nature of human life. When Cedar discovers she’s pregnant, she knows that she has to be careful. When she has an ultrasound, the technician says, “We’ve got one.”
While Cedar tries to hide while in her first trimester, once her pregnancy starts to show, she has to flee — and, fortunately, she has now been introduced to her biological family up north and has somewhere to go. “I wanted to explore what a public creature you become when you’re pregnant, how everybody puts their hands on you, you’re vulnerable to an extreme degree when you’re pregnant.” Cedar’s flight and her adventures are, Erdrich acknowledges, an epic journey with an expectant mother at its center — and when was the last time you saw that?