53 pages 1 hour read

Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living God

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2017

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Future Home of the Living God is a 2017 speculative fiction novel by American author Louise Erdrich. Told by Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a pregnant Native American woman in her mid-twenties living in Minneapolis, the story consists of her reflections as she waits to give birth. In the novel’s pre-apocalyptic America, human evolution has reversed, meaning that the species has begun to biologically regress into an infertile state. Meanwhile, the United States government has undermined citizens’ rights to bodily autonomy, and radical religious groups try to seize control over human reproduction. Cedar is threatened by one such group when it starts to round up pregnant women for the “protection” of their unborn children. The novel highlights the fragility of human rights and political institutions, criticizing America’s narrative of inevitable progress. Cedar’s increasing marginalization as a Native American and a pregnant woman represents the negative consequences of taking stability and freedom for granted.

The novel begins several years into the reproductive apocalypse. Cedar, the adopted daughter of two Buddhist hippies, Sera and Glen Songmaker, decides that it is time to meet the woman who birthed her. She travels to the Ojibwe reservation outside Minneapolis, and meets the woman, Mary Potts, who goes by “Sweetie.” Cedar is surprised that Sweetie happens to be Catholic like her. During the visit, Sweetie successfully petitions the tribe’s council to build a shrine to the Native American Catholic saint, Kateri Tekakwitha. Cedar also meets her half-sister, Little Mary Potts, who is a troublemaker and shares few similarities with her. Sweetie is dating Eddy, a depressed scholar who is attempting to write a book mainly to silence his suicidal ideations. Together, the Pottses own a large gas station called the Superpumper; this fact bothers Cedar.

After visiting her biological relatives, Cedar goes to a pregnancy check-up and receives her first ultrasound. While the doctor is outside checking on the results, Cedar hears her say, “We’ve got one.” When she returns, she tells the nurses to leave her for a moment. She instructs Cedar to tie her down to make it seem that she was subdued, and to make a run for it. She warns her to never tell anyone she is pregnant. Cedar goes home to hide with the baby’s father, Phil. They live under the radar for a while until one day, Cedar’s face is broadcast on live television. Phil tells her that an extreme religious group, the Unborn Protection Society, is using its own police force to abduct pregnant women. Cedar tries to find the Songmakers, but learns that they went into hiding. One evening, Sweetie and Eddy appear at Cedar’s house and explain that they helped the Songmakers cross into Canada. They offer to help Cedar and Phil escape as well.

The next part of the novel is written from within a converted hospital, now a UPS detention facility. Her cellmate is another pregnant woman, Tia Jackson. Tia and Cedar knot their blankets together into a rope; aided by a diversion caused by Sera, they climb out the window. A nurse nearly catches them, but they kill her. Cedar discovers that Phil alerted the UPS of her whereabouts. Cedar, Tia, and Sera hide in a recycling management plant. There, Tia goes into labor, but has a miscarriage. The tragedy confirms to the group that humans are indeed losing their ability to successfully reproduce. The women find Tia’s husband, then travel to the Ojibwe reservation. Later, when Cedar and Sera argue about her pregnancy, Sera reveals that Glen is Cedar’s biological father. Cedar sympathizes with Glen, knowing that he simply wanted to ensure that Sera felt she was part of the family.

The Ojibwe reservation is besieged by the UPS. Phil rescues Sera, bearing the physical signs of having been tortured. Cedar travels to the reservation’s Kateri Tekakwitha shrine to pray out of desperation. She is kidnapped by a couple that wants to claim her UPS bounty, then taken to Stillwater Birthing Center. At the “Center,” a converted prison, women are being forcibly impregnated, then forced to give birth. Cedar encounters the same doctor from the UPS hospital. She asks her to take care of her child after it is separated from her at birth. Cedar delivers the baby alive, but the stress damages her heart. Her infant son is taken, and she is forced to remain in the Birthing Center to be impregnated against her will. At the novel’s conclusion, Cedar remembers the year she was eight, the last time she saw snow. She wonders whether her son will see snow when he is eight – but accepts that she will never know. Future Home of the Living God conveys the emotional trauma inflicted by societies that police women’s bodies, and also shows that those who carry out this policing can do so without truly understanding the evilness of their actions.

blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
Unlock IconUnlock all 53 pages of this Study Guide
Plus, gain access to 8,000+ more expert-written Study Guides.
Including features:
+ Mobile App
+ Printable PDF
+ Literary AI Tools