We witness this societal meltdown through the journal entries of Cedar Hawk Songmaker (née Mary Potts), who is part Ojibwe Indian but was raised by Volvo-driving liberal parents in Minneapolis.
Cedar is 26 and pregnant — she resembles the Land O’Lakes butter maiden, we are told — and must hide from spies and drones and dust-like observational motes.
“Future Home of the Living God” — the title comes from a roadside church sign — is a feverish and somewhat feeble novel. Erdrich’s heart isn’t really in her dystopian visions, and this novel’s scenes of chases and escapes are hokey and feel derived from films.
Erdrich has written better about pregnancy — see “The Blue Jay’s Dance: A Memoir of Early Motherhood” (1995) — and used the diary form to more striking effect in her 2010 novel “Shadow Tag.”
Cedar is a seeker, a convert to Catholicism with a more-than-vestigial interest in Native American spirituality. To read this novel is to wade through a great many solemnities on the order of:
“Perhaps we are experiencing a reverse incarnation. A process where the spirit of the divine becomes lost in human physical nature. Perhaps the spark of divinity, which we experience as consciousness, is being reabsorbed into the boundless creativity of seething opportunistic life.”
That, and ladybugs are now the size of cats.
The funny thing about this not-very-good novel is that there are so many good small things in it. Erdrich is such a gifted and (when she wants to be) earthy writer; her sentences can flash with wit and feeling, sunbursts of her imagination.
There’s a terrific sex scene that takes place backstage at a church preparing for a Christmas play. The man and woman try on various outfits, making love while dressed as angels and Wise Men and Herod and gay shepherds.
And witness this moment, when Cedar watches her adoptive mother, a determined vegetarian, forced to eat a hot dog because it is…