I knew she was good, great even, one of the finest and most important authors of our time. She's written many good and some great novels, most of which I've read and several of which I've loved. I knew. Still, maybe I didn't know, not really, how truly gifted she is.
Because goddamn if Louise Erdrich hasn't gone and done it: written an intelligent, wise, thoughtfully crafted, beautiful and deep and deeply literary dystopian novel. That elusive oft-sought gem I'd despaired of ever finding.
This blog is replete with my plaints about the myriad failings of dystopian fiction, sadly including books by otherwise good writers, certainly including critically acclaimed books. Not a one of them has met what I think are my quite modest requirements: honesty, credibility or at least internal credibility, not-nonsensical plotting and not-laughably stupid distortions of science, an at least minimal nod to political reality, a progressive slant that among other things precludes white- and male-centric story, and above all an imagination expansive enough to create a fictive reality that moves beyond the status quo in terms of social systems, an imagination that conceives a different way forward.
These modest requirements are met and exceeded by this brilliant and thus far underappreciated novel. I say underappreciated because while yes it's been reviewed and has received some attention since the author is after all Louise Erdrich, most reviews have damned it with faint praise, judging this one of her lesser works. In my view the opposite is true. Future Home of the Living God is one of her greatest accomplishments.
I won't spoil anything for the potential reader with specifics about the story Erdrich tells here. Instead I'll emphasize how this novel shines with creative intelligence--intelligence about humanity, about community, about science and nature, and also intelligence about what kind of story a story such as this should tell. It's not only by comparison to the relentlessly stupid dystopias to which we've been subjected by so many other writers, but on its own merits and measured according to the work of art this book sets out to be, that Future Home of the Living God achieves greatness. I loved every minute of it, every painful and frightening and perversely hopeful page.