Future Home of the Living God is a dystopian novel written by Louise Erdrich in 2017 that touches upon the critical aspects of evolution and female fertility; more specifically, the evolution is going backward. The crucial role of the fundamentalist religions and associated canonical laws regarding control over the female body serves as the basis for the predominant part of science fiction literature, as well as for Erdrich’s novel. However, the story reflects on the chaos resulting from the disaster and vulnerable women’s rights. With that said, it is crucial to examine one of the main themes in the novel, which is motherhood and the relations between the protagonist Cedar and her mother, Sweetie.
Analysis of Sweetie (Mary Potts Almost Senior)
Sweetie is the birth mother of the main character Cedar Songmaker, who narrates the story in the form of a diary addressed to her unborn child. As described by Tefft, Cedar is seen as a narrator who defines the strengths and weaknesses of people she encounters with particular humor. It takes a great deal of hope to observe people in all their complexity constantly. Mary Potts Almost Senior, also known as Sweetie to her Ojibwe family, is an indigenous woman in the latest point of her middle age.
As a young woman, she addressed the drug and sex addictions, which was the main reason for abandoning her baby Cedar. Fortunately, Sweetie has recovered since that time and can live a comparatively healthy and measured life on the reservation with her mother, Mary Potts the Very Senior, and her daughter, Little Mary. Sweetie defines herself as “a pagan Catholic” that serves as a contradiction broadened by Cedar in her self-identity (Martinez-Falquina 173). From the author’s perspective, Sweetie is not depicted as the most competent mother, as she gives a false portrayal of her younger daughter Little Mary (Erdrich 124). It is evident that despite such critical life enhancements, Cedar’s mother deeply regrets giving up her daughter for adoption. Therefore, she strives to justify her decision when Cedar comes to visit.
Cedar and Sweetie‘s Interaction
As an irony, Cedar’s birth mother carries the name Mary Potts, which incorporates a powerful reflection on culture, politics, identity, and motherhood. According to Cedar, she was “removed from my Potts mother because of our mutual addiction to a substance she loved more than me” (Erdrich 212). However, she is not the only character within the story who isolated herself from her family. By abandoning her daughter for adoption, Sweetie broke the genealogy. As Cedar eventually embraced the deep connection to her birth mother, she aimed at protecting the health of her own child when visiting Sweetie. One may assume that Cedar’s resistance of close connection and similarity with her mother manifests the will to keep the interrupted family lineage. However, by getting closer to her mother and grandmother, the protagonist starts to value her past instead of remaining focused primarily on the future.
The author depicts a remarkable portrait of a young woman competing for survival and her unborn child against oppressive authority that occurs because of a cataclysm in the post-apocalyptic landscape. Mary Potts Almost Senior seems to be a well-intentioned character; however, she is quite delusional regarding her role as a mother. In the broader sense, Sweetie is an older woman who is dealing with her wrong choices in youth as she approaches her later years. By illustrating the relationship between the protagonist Cedar and her birth mother, Sweetie, Erdrich aimed at intertwining specific ethical codes associated with reproduction and motherhood in terms of science fiction.
Erdrich, Louise. Future Home of the Living God. Harper Perennial, 2017.
Männik, Teele. Giving Women’s Bodies back to Women: Representation of Religion and Women’s Rights in Louise Erdrich’s Novel “Future Home of the Living God.” 2019. University of Tartu, BA Thesis.
Martinez-Falquina, Silvia. “Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God: Uncertainty, Proleptic Mourning and Relationality in Native Dystopia.” Journal of the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies, vol. 41, no. 2, 2019, pp. 161–178. Atlantis, Web.
Tefft, Dawn. “The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (Review).” Pleiades: Literature in Context, vol. 38, no. 2S, 2018, pp. 30–31. Project Muse, Web.