Posts filed under ‘January 2018 reads’

A Good Story lost in the crappy Future – “Future Home of the Living God” by Louise Erdrich

There is no question that Erdrich writes an amazing story with beautiful and sometimes stark imaginary woven into her writing.  So I begin there.  But, I also need to say that I am 34217599.jpgnot a huge dystopian genre fan.  The imagining of our future is often a remake of a previous novel in some form. Our dim, bleak future always seems to include some loss or gain of human cognitive functioning which results in some larger moral question and then there is always a burning need to control women’s reproductive systems.  All of this is always set within a journey of some kind – through torn up cities or burned fields or zombie filled ghost towns. But you must understand that in the case of “Future Home of the Living God” this is Erdrich’s book and so I thought “okay let’s give it a try, maybe the journey will be through a frozen tundra (have they done that already) or something just to mix it up.”

Here is the problem – there is a story here that has a lot of potential.  Cedar Songmaker is in her twenties and finds herself pregnant.  As a baby herself, Cedar was adopted from her Ojibwa mother by a white, solidly middle-class, bleeding liberal couple.  Her childhood was wonderful, her adoptive parents supportive, but Cedar feels like in order to understand her own child’s future she must get to know her birth mother.  And so Cedar hits the road (nope no zombies) and does meet her birth mother, her half-sister and her grandmother. It is such a wonderfully written storyline with a great deal of possibility and the characters are truly interesting.  In and of itself this is a novella or the beginnings of its own novel.  But instead, we have to add in some other elements that never really fold in well with Cedar’s story.

The world is changing. Animals are reverting back to earlier evolutionary forms, plants are changing, and food is unrecognizable.  Babies are being born with irregularities.  While Cedar is trying to take care of herself and her baby, pregnant women are being turned over to the state to be placed in institutions for observations and medical testing. There is a police state, streets are renamed after biblical verses. There is no internet and all communication must again return to letters through the postal service.

It is all the things you have read before but in less detail.  Erdrich leaves a lot of the details of this changing world up to the readers imagination.  She even writes that “the first thing that happens at the end of the world is that we don’t know what is happening.”  But alas, as a reader it would have been nice to be included in a bit more of the what is actual happening part so that everything wasn’t constantly a fog of guess-work.  This all made me wonder how these two stories (Cedar’s and our dystopian) were formed and came together.  It feels like two ideas were slapped together in a mismatched way and it left me confused. Erdrich plays with religion, culture, purpose, and the concept of motherhood throughout as well.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it feels forced.  Quite honestly, I think some of it went right over my head.

Overall, this book was exactly what I suspected. A journey into our dim, bleak future where pregnant women are rounded up and we all end up eating endless piles of twinkies and slim jims from convenience stores while wishing we had learned better survival skills in gym class.

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January 12, 2018 at 11:14 pm Leave a comment

Tiny House People – “Caroline: Little House, Revisited” by Sarah Miller

If you are a woman who grew up in the 70s or 80s the chances are pretty high that at Unknown-1.jpegsome point you read “The Little House on the Prairie” books.   So the fact that Miller has written a book revisiting the story from the viewpoint of Laura’s Ma (Caroline) is pretty exciting for those of us who are LHOP fans.  And the book really didn’t disappoint.  It is a study of pioneer life as a mother, wife, and woman just like the LHOP books were a study of pioneer life of a young girl as she goes through all the stages of childhood to adulthood.

More specifically, this book follows the life of the Ingalls family as they make the trek in a covered wagon from Minnesota to Kansas.  To further complicate life, Caroline finds out she is pregnant right before they begin their journey – so, if life in a wagon sounds amazingly comfortable then just imagine it pregnant with two smalls kids in tow.

Miller’s strengths are in her thorough research of the topic and her detailed descriptions.  Her insight into the life of a pioneer family from the stitching of the cover for a wagon to the sweetening of bread over a fire with molasses to how to halt a prairie fire is certainly  insightful and in a lot of parts is interesting.  Unfortunately, where Miller tends to lose momentum, is in the story itself and connection to the narrator.  Caroline seems cold and removed even with the soft edges Miller tries to give her and the day-to-day detailed tasks start to feel as tedious as they likely actually were.  I was reminded as they started building their one room house on the Kansas prairie that there are a lot of shows based on this premise of tiny house living.  And as I suspected, this insight into tiny house living with two small children is nowhere in my life plans.

There is some momentum towards the end of the book, but as all LHOP fans know (SPOILER HERE), the Ingalls family winds up moving back to Minnesota after all of that  work setting up a homestead in Kansas which just seems to deflate the story like a balloon.  Ending the novel on that note left me feeling disappointed and like I had also made a lot of cornbread with molasses for nothing.  In truth, I wish I liked molasses more than I do.

 

 

January 3, 2018 at 7:38 pm Leave a comment


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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