Posts tagged ‘Lousie Edrich’

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

Expectation is the mother of something – My year end book round-up thing

IMG_5512.jpgI read an unusually large amount of books this year (72 to be exact).  The only way I can really account for this large number is an entire Spring, Summer and Autumn of evenings on our new porch.  The space is peaceful – even with my children and dog tumbling through it.  I found that even when I have worked a long day I just needed reading time in that space. So I guess what I am saying is that I am the shallow person that needs pretty spaces while I read and if that happens then 72 books are totally within my grasp.  IMG_5515.jpg

In all of those piles of books I read this year there were great finds, disappointments and just plain ridiculousness that made me wonder how the author landed with any kind of book deal let alone was acclaimed by some list or carried some kind award winning stamp of approval.  Here is my list.

Favorite Books that made me think: 

  1.  Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and Birth of the FBI by David Grann – This book covers the history of the Osage tribe as well as their systematic murders by the white people in their community wanting their wealth.  It is a story that is shocking in and of itself, the fact that it is true is devastating.  This book made me realize how very little I know about Native American history even just in the last one hundred years but also how few books there are that cover that period of history.
  2. The Round House by Louise Edrich – I have not read anything by Edrich before and this book was beautiful, sad and compelling.  Edrich chronicles Native American life but perhaps most importantly reservation life.  The story is told through the eyes of a boy, Joe, who learns that his mother has been savagely attacked and raped.  After the crime, Joe watches his parents try to return to some normalcy while failing miserably.  Between the tribal justice system (which includes Joe’s father) and the white justice system (which does not seem to care), Joe decides that the only way he can find out who attacked his mother is by investigating the crime himself with his friends.   There are a lot of books about boys trying to solve something that has changed their lives but this book is something more.  It is a deep look at Native American culture, white culture has hindered any hope of a future and how even in the most vulnerable moments for our children parents will fail them.
  3. We Crossed the Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Perlman – Before we made any decisions about how to handle refugees from Syria we all should have read this book.  It is akin to where we tell a story about someone who sounds like you living through war and having to leave everything but then say but they are actually Syrian.  It is lawyers, scholars, mothers, students, it is you and I living through something harrowing and expecting the world to care.  But we didn’t.
  4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – To me this was the best book I read this year. It is a three hundred year history of a family in Ghana that at one point splinters into tribal royalty and into slavery.  It is brilliantly written and, even though the characters change frequently, there is a connection from generation to generation that keeps the reader invested.  I absolutely loved it.

Favorite Suspense Books: 

  1.     The Dry by Jane Harper – I was hesitant to read this one because of all of the critical acclaim but Harper earned it. This is the story of Aaron Faulk coming home to a painful past in his Australian home town while wrestling with the appearance that his childhood friend has murdered his family and killed himself.
  2. The Good Daughter by Karen Slaughter – If you like suspense books you just should read Slaughter. Her books are just well done all the way around.
  3. The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg – I am new to Lackberg but her novels set in Fjallbacka, Sweden have that wonderful blend of likable characters that find themselves dealing with a murder in their small town and suspense. These character driven mystery novels have become my favorite blend in this genre.

Books that me wonder why they were considered so amazing:

  1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – This book was everywhere. Acclaimed, talked about, chased after.  But I really didn’t like it, didn’t find it enlightening and was really frustrated by it.  I sometimes wonder if books about such a tough topic that receive critical acclaim make it hard for readers to just be honest about how it resonated with them, instead of just nodding and saying “yes, so deep and insightful.”  Let’s just admit here and now that even the great Toni Morrison has a miss now and then and it is okay to not love everything that examines our nation’s painful past and current race relations. Just because it attempts to create a space for discourse does not render it quality or literature.
  2. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger – This book made some good points but completely lost me on some of the political points as well as completely frustrating me when tribe is used as an excuse to lose our sense of what makes a community healthy and meaningful.  We have to be smarter and better than that.
  3. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman – I really hate to add this to the list but this book was disappointing for me.  It is meant to be prequel to Hoffman’s “Practical Magic” and that had such appeal and Reese Witherspoon loved it so there’s that. I felt a bit like these were a lot of short stories Hoffman has written that she then wove together to create a bigger story and then it became the prequel so it was marketable.

Nice Surprises that are wonderful reads:

  1. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith – it is sunny and set in a gorgeous place, read it on a cold day when you are wishing to travel.
  2. Bruno Chief of Police by Martin Walker – it is a mystery but also such a great focus on Southern French culture and food that it was just too lovely to not enjoy. Read it when you have a good bottle of wine and cheese on hand.
  3. The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne – This is her first book and it was a compelling story of what life would be if you were born out of your mother’s captivity but still loved your father who had held her captive.  There is a level of writing here that really makes me curious to see what Dionne writes next. Read it when you want a good suspense novel with some excellent writing.
  4. Who Thought this was a Good Idea by Alyssa Mastromonaco – written by President Obama’s deputy chief of staff this book has so many funny moments but is also such a great reminder of how hard being a woman in politics is and makes you hope that the days of this type of integrity are not a thing of the past. Read it when politics are depressing you and you have a good drink in hand so you can really forget about our current woes.

Never ever pick up:   No matter who says otherwise I would beg you not to read books by Victora Aveyard (Red Queen series), B.A. Paris (I know they sound good in the descriptions but trust me), Shari Lapena (maybe the first one she wrote but otherwise no), or maybe anything else Paula Hawkins writes.

And so ends 2017. May your 2018 be filled with joy, happiness and lovely places to curl up with a good book.

 

 

December 30, 2017 at 6:34 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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