The Light Keeper's Daughter 
Jean E. Pendziwol, 2017
320 pp.

Though her mind is still sharp, Elizabeth's eyes have failed.

No longer able to linger over her beloved books or gaze at the paintings that move her spirit, she fills the void with music and memories of her family—a past that suddenly becomes all too present when her late father's journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck.

With the help of Morgan, a delinquent teenage performing community service, Elizabeth goes through the diaries, a journey through time that brings the two women closer together.

Entry by entry, these unlikely friends are drawn deep into a world far removed from their own — to Porphyry Island on Lake Superior, where Elizabeth’s father manned the lighthouse seventy years before.

As the words on these musty pages come alive, Elizabeth and Morgan begin to realize that their fates are connected to the isolated island in ways they never dreamed. While the discovery of Morgan's connection sheds light onto her own family mysteries, the faded pages of the journals hold more questions than answers for Elizabeth, and threaten the very core of who she is. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Awards— Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award
Currently—lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario

Jean E. Pendziwol was born in Thunder Bay on Lake Superior, in northwestern Ontario, Canada. She spent much of her childhood aboard her family’s sailboat, exploring the islands and bays of the inland sea. After working as a freelance writer and photographer, she spent several years focusing on raising her three children before publishing her first children’s book. She lives in Ontario, in the shadow of the Nor’Wester Mountains, with her husband, two of her three grown children, a loveable mutt, and three temperamental chickens, who sometimes lay eggs (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Morgan Fletcher is performing community service at the senior center, penance for tagging it with graffiti art. She’s matched up with Elizabeth Livingstone, an elderly woman whose mind is still sharp, even though her eyesight has failed her. Elizabeth has just been sent some journals belonging to her late father, but she needs Morgan’s help to read them. As Elizabeth uncovers details from her past with each page, Morgan becomes more determined to solve the mysteries in her own life.
New York Post

A remarkable achievement.… [A] story of commitment, identity, and familial loyalty that will leave one in tears. Five out of five stars.
New York Journal of Books

Seamlessly weaves between past and present.… I loved this story! From the characters to the setting, each aspect is perfect. The Light Keeper's Daughters is one of the best books that I’ve read this year.… [B]eautifully written.
Fresh Fiction

YA author Pendziwol pins her first story for adults to the "fortunes of chance."… This is a perfect hammock read for those who love the Brontë sisters and Jodi Picoult in equal measure.
Publishers Weekly

This atmospheric novel tells an intricate story about familial love and deception. While the story at the novel's core may lean toward the melodramatic, readers will be drawn in by the intergenerational relationship. —Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll. Lib., Pepper Pike, OH
Library Journal

Deeply satisfying.… With strong characters and rich in historical details, The Lightkeeper’s Daughters looks carefully at love and identity and the things we do to keep them both safe.

Pendziwol has created an intricately satisfying story about love and deception that manages to be both melancholy and exhilarating. A haunting tale of nostalgia and lost chances that is full of last-minute surprises.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
The following questions were generously provided to LitLovers by Linda of Anaheim Page Turners. Thank you, Linda!

1. What is the setting for this novel? Did you think the author portrayed the setting and the experiences of a lighthouse keeper well?

2. We first are introduced to Morgan. Describe her. What are her problems at the beginning of the story?

3. What takes Morgan to the care facility? What is she supposed to do there?

4. What attracts Elizabeth to Morgan so that she would reveal her background to a stranger?

5. How does Morgan move the story of the Livingston sisters forward and help reveal their secrets?

6. Describe the Livingston family: Elizabeth, Emily, Lil, Andrew, Peter, and Charlie.

7. Greyson and David Fletcher worked at the lighthouse at different times. How are they related to the Livingston family experiences?

8. Who were Alfred and Millie? How did they save Elizabeth and Emily? How did they enrich their lives?

9. Who said, "You should have let her die. Emily will never be right"? How did you interpret that statement? Does that statement help you understand her actions that occur later in the story?

10. Elizabeth called the year of 1942 the Year of 3 Deaths. Whose deaths was she referring to?

11. Elizabeth said, "Have I created a truth? One I can live with? Have I relived the moment so many times that my fiction is now my truth — the truth I want it to be?" What was she referring to? Have you ever repeated past events in your mind so many times, you are no longer sure what is really true and what you have convinced yourself is true?

12. How did Elizabeth learn she was not related to Lil or Pa or Emily?

13. What happened to Emily after the fire which burned the lighthouse and killed Lil?

14. Who arranged the release of Emily? How did this change her life?

15. Who was Elizabeth really?

16. Who hid Andrew’s logbooks? And how were they found?

17. Emily was raped and became pregnant by whom? What was his motivation? How did Arnie Richardson pay for his practical joke in the Indian graveyard?

18. What did Emily name her baby? Who took the baby away? What name was she then given? What was her fate?

19. How is Morgan related to the Livingstone family? How does she bring the family full circle? Was David Fletcher actually her grandfather?

20. The wolf mentioned throughout the novel is a symbol of what?

20. What theme or message did you take away from this story?

21. Did you enjoy the story? Why or why not?   

(Questions submitted to LitLovers by Linda of Anaheim Page Turners. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution.)

top of page (summary)

The Revolution of Marina M. 
Janet Fitch, 2017
Little, Brown
816 pp.

From the mega-bestselling author of White Oleander, a sweeping historical saga of the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of one young woman.

St. Petersburg, New Year's Eve, 1916.
Marina Makarova is a young woman of privilege who aches to break free of the constraints of her genteel life, a life about to be violently upended by the vast forces of history.

Swept up on these tides, Marina will join the marches for workers' rights, fall in love with a radical young poet, and betray everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn.

As her country goes through almost unimaginable upheaval, Marina's own coming-of-age unfolds, marked by deep passion and devastating loss, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times.

This is the epic, mesmerizing story of one indomitable woman's journey through some of the most dramatic events of the last century. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—November 9, 1956
Where—Los Angeles, California, USA
Education—B.A., Reed College
Currently—lives in Los Angeles

Janet Fitch is an American author most famously known her 1999 novel White Oleander, which was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club pick the year it came out. The novel was adapted to film in 2002. Other novels followed: Paint it Black in 2006 and The Revolution of Marina M. in 2017.

Janet Fitch was born in Los Angeles, a third-generation native, and grew up in a family of voracious readers. She is a graduate of Reed College, located in Portland, Oregon. As an undergraduate, she had decided to become a historian, attracted to its powerful narratives, the scope of events, the colossal personalities, and the potency and breadth of its themes.

But when she won a student exchange to Keele University in England, where her passion for Russian history led her, she awoke in the middle of the night on her twenty-first birthday with the revelation she wanted to write fiction.

Currently, Fitch is a faculty member in the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, where she teaches fiction.

Two of her favorite authors are Fyodor Dostoevsky and Edgar Allan Poe. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 2/14/2017.)

Book Reviews
[A] vast, ambitious historical tale.… Marina, the reader [eventually] concludes, is not a true revolutionary; she is tossed like flotsam by great events; the the novel would benefit if she were more a participant.… [S]omewhere in the middle of its 800 pages, this novel loses any semblance of [the author's] 19th century forbear's sense of narrative control. That said, the feral descriptions of sex provide some of the novel's most amusing, if decidedly unDostoyevskian, moments.
Simon Sebag Montefiore - New York Times Book Review

[A] question that haunts the story…what is this book about?… Many books, especially those requiring 800 pages of time from their readers, would be undone by the absence of a clear purpose. And yet, astonishingly, The Revolution of Marina M. is hard to put down. Like Marina, it is maddening and flawed. It makes a good many bad decisions. And yet it is charming and lively and, ultimately, worth the time.
Trine Tsouderos - Chicago Tribune

Marina M is a budding 16-year-old poet on the eve of the 1917 October revolution, when the Bolsheviks take power. Fitch creates a virtual magic lantern show of the following three years of turmoil, immersing Marina in each scene. She begins a love affair with Kolya, a mercurial officer secretly involved in the lucrative black market. She moves in with Genya, a poet in a futurist commune. She plays dangerous games with her childhood friend Varvara, who becomes a Cheka commissar. Her father is involved with a counter-revolutionary plot; her mother inspires a spiritualist cult that withdraws into the countryside to escape the Red Terror and cholera epidemic. Marina is by turns adventurous, foolish, romantic, self-destructive and courageous in this extraordinary coming-of-age tale.
Jane Ciabbatari - BBC Culture

[A]n epic bildungsroman.… The resilient Marina has much in common with the modern heroines of the author’s previous books and is a protagonist worth following. However, even though the book is well researched, the overlong narrative peters out.
Publishers Weekly

Fitch captures the epic grandeur of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy…. Yet she also infuses her protagonists with transgressive sexual energy…. Verdict: Readers…will thrill to this narrative of women in love during the cataclysm of war. —Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA
Library Journal

Fitch's novel…provides an excellent sense of history's unpredictability and shows how the desperate pursuit of survival leads to morally compromising decisions.… [C]inematic storytelling and Marina's vibrant personality are standout elements in this dramatic novel. —Sarah Johnson

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Revolution of Marina M. … then take off on your own:

1. Describe Marina. Early on in the novel, she leads a life of privilege, yet she is dissatisfied. Why? What does she want? (Okay, sex...but what else?)  Do you admire her? In what ways does Marina change over the course of the novel?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: Near the beginning of the novel, Marina says,

I was in love with the Future, in love with the idea of Fate. There's nothing more romantic to the young — until its dogs sink their teeth into your calf and pull you to the ground.

Do you think she is correct: that the idea of future or fate (which one is she actually referring to … or is it both?) is exciting to the young? As you read through the novel, at what point did fate stop being romantic for Marina? When did the the dogs start to "sink their teeth into [her] calf"? By the end of the novel, has Marina changed? In her outlook? Or in her essential character traits? What, if anything, has she learned?

3. What is the political state of Russia early on in the book? Marina describes history as "the sound of a floor underneath a rotten regime, termite-ridden and ready to fall." She is obviously referring to the government of the Czar. In what way is the regime "rotten" and "ready to fall"?

4. Why are the reforms offered up by Premier Prince Lvov — the promise of freedom of speech and assembly, the right to strike, and elections by ballot — insufficient for the radicals? What causes the provisional government to fail?

5. Talk about the effect that Leon Trotsky has as he addresses the crowd at the Cirque Moderne. Is he a typical demagogue out for power and self-aggrandizement? Or does he offer genuine path of reform for the Russian people?

6. What do you think of Marina's best friend Varvara and their relationship? In the fervor of revolution, was Varvara right or wrong in persuading Marina to spy on her father? And what about her father's outing of his daughter?

7. Describe the conditions of life for the population in the months following the October 17 overthrow? How grim is it?

8. Baron Arkady von Princip. Care to talk about him? What was your experience reading about the S&M he subjects Marina to?

9. Returning to the quotation in Question 2 — about how youthful romanticism can turn into a vicious animal — what do you see as the thematic concern of The Revolution of Marina M.? Is it how young people come of age in the midst of life's trials? Is it what happens to bonds of love and loyalty during social and political upheaval? Is a cautionary tale about how revolutions can turn more repressive than the regimes they replace? Or perhaps it's simply offered as a bird's eye view into one of the great events of the 20th century, one that shaped Western politics for decades to come. Or is it something else?

10. What have you learned about the October 17 Revolution that you did not know before reading Janet Fitch's novel? What surprised you most? What did you find most disturbing, maybe horrifying? Where did you find your sympathies falling: with the victors or the vanquished?

11. The novel is 800 pages long. Too long for you? Do you feel the author made some unnecessary detours in order to ramp up the plot line? Or do Marina's many adventures — as a sex slave, as part of a spiritual cult, living with the astronomers — enhance the story for you, giving it life and color?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution.)

top of page (summary)

Mr. Dickens and His Carol 
Samantha Silva, 2017
Flatiron Books
288 pp.

Laced with humor, rich historical detail from Charles Dickens’ life, and clever winks to his work, Samantha Silva's Mr. Dickens and His Carol is an irresistible new take on a cherished classic.

Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money.

While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.

Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs.

As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Samantha Silva is an author and screenwriter based in Idaho. Mr. Dickens and His Carol is her debut novel. Over her career she's sold film projects to Paramount, Universal, New Line Cinema and TNT. A film adaptation of her short story, "The Big Burn," won the 1 Potato Short Screenplay Competition at the Sun Valley Film Festival in 2017. Silva will direct, her first time at the helm.

She graduated from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, where she studied in Bologna, Italy and Washington, D.C. She's lived in London three times, briefly in Rome, is an avid Italophile, and a forever Dickens devotee. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
This clever, original debut brilliantly imagines the writing of A Christmas Carol…Wildly moving, chock full of Dickensian atmosphere and written in a style as rich as a Victorian Christmas dinner.
Daily Mail (UK)

On its way to becoming a classic not unlike its subject matter.

No writer in the history of literature so embodies the season of Christmas as Charles Dickens, a man who was alive to his fingertips from start to finish. Among his finest moments was surely when he wrote and published his mythic tale of Scrooge, Jacob Marley, and Tiny Tim, changing hearts and minds, then and now. Samantha Silva brings the great man, the Inimitable, to sizzling life in Mr. Dickens and His Carol. This man who brimmed with Christmases past, present, and future walks onto the public stage again in these pages, takes a bow, and enjoys the ringing applause.
Library Journal

Wonderfully Dickensian…With the wit and sprightly tone of a classic storyteller, Silva presents a heartwarming tale of friendship and renewal that’s imbued with the true Christmas spirit.

Discussion Questions
1. Were you familiar with Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" before reading Mr. Dickens and His Carol? Did Samantha Silva’s novel change how you viewed the classic? Discuss the ways in which Silva referenced and departed from Dickens’ original story.

2. The city of London plays a key role in this novel: "A map of it was etched on [Dickens’] brain, its tangle of streets and squares, alleys and mews a true atlas of his own interior. The city had made him. It knew his sharp angles, the soft pits of his being. It was a magic lantern that illuminated everything he was and feared and wished would be true. It was his imagination—its spark, fuel, and flame."How does London inspire this story? Do you have a place that is similarly important in your life and imagination?

3. Clocks appear in many scenes, from Dickens’ beloved fusee clock to the clock tower in the square, where he first meets Eleanor Lovejoy. What do you make of these representations of time? How does Dickens’ view of time, and of his own history, change over the course of these pages?

4. When Dickens is suffering from writer’s block, Eleanor tells him: "Then let the specter of your memory be the spark of your imagination." What is Dickens’ relationship with memory, and with the past generally? How does his own life inspire "A Christmas Carol"?

5. Dickens is fascinated by costume, performance, and theater, and he dreams throughout the novel of going to India with Macready and performing Shakespeare. Why do you think acting holds such interest for him? How is it similar to and different from writing? What is the significance of his staged reading of "A Christmas Carol" at the end of the story?

6. In a couple of scenes, we see other famous Victorian writers, including William Makepeace Thackeray, discussing (and disparaging) Dickens’ novels. Thackeray, a satirist, criticizes Dickens’ "gushing displays of the heart," while for Dickens, "It was all heart, or nothing." How does Silva play with sentimentality and other "Dickensian" qualities in Mr. Dickens and His Carol? Discuss the writing style here and the effect it had on you.

7. Dickens’ relationship with Eleanor is complicated: "He didn’t understand the kinship he felt toward her, or gratitude maybe, or some ineffable affinity of nature and qualities." How would you characterize their bond? Is it at all romantic? Why or why not?

8. When Dickens learns that Eleanor is a ghost, he reflects: "How real she’d seemed, and if not, at least as true as anything he’d ever known. Maybe she’d sprung from his imagination, his own roiling conscience, but it didn’t matter now." Were you surprised by the twist? How did you interpret Eleanor’s existence?

9. The world of spirits and ghosts was a point of intense fascination in Dickens’ day. As Chapman says, "The public adore spirits and goblins in a good winter’s tale." Why do you think Samantha Silva wrote a ghost story in this day and age? What are some of your favorite modern ghost stories?

10. On one of his London walks, Dickens watches a magic show and reflects on "the truth at the bottom of every illusion, every fiction: our own great desire to believe." Do you agree? Discuss the various illusions, fictions, and beliefs within Mr. Dickens and His Carol.

11. In her author’s note, Silva writes: "I’m keenly aware that a good biography tells us the truth about a person; a good story, the truth about ourselves." What do you think she means? What did you learn about yourself from this novel?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

top of page (summary)

Krysten Ritter, 2017
288 pp.

A gripping, tightly wound suspense novel about a woman forced to confront her past in the wake of small-town corruption.
It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small-town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’s biggest scandal from more than a decade ago, involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as she tries desperately to find out what really happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations.

And when she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game”—it will threaten reputations, and lives, in the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote rural town of just five claustrophobic square miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of what happens when your past and present collide. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—December 16, 1981
Where—Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Education—Northwest Area High School
Currently—lives in New York, NY and Los Angeles, California

Krysten Alyce Ritter is an American actress, former model, and author. Ritter is known for her roles as lead superheroine Jessica Jones on the Marvel Cinematic Universe series Jessica Jones and The Defenders, Jane Margolis on the AMC drama series Breaking Bad, and Chloe on the ABC comedy series Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. She has appeared in films such as What Happens in Vegas (2008), 27 Dresses (2008), Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009), She's Out of My League (2010), Veronica Mars (2014), and Big Eyes (2014). She has also had roles in the television shows Gravity, 'Til Death, Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl, and The Blacklist.

She published her debut novel, Bonfire, a thriller, to solid reviews in 2017.

Early life
Ritter was born in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Garry Ritter and Kathi Taylor. She was raised on a farm outside Shickshinny, Pennsylvania, where her mother, stepfather and sister live; her father lives in nearby Benton. Ritter graduated in 2000 from Northwest Area High School.

When she was only 15, Ritter was scouted by an agent at a modeling event at the local shopping mall, the Wyoming Valley Mall. Ritter described herself at the time as "tall, gawky, awkward, and really, really skinny" to Philadelphia Style magazine. During the remainder of her high school years, she traveled on her days off to modeling gigs in New York and Philadelphia. She signed with the Elite Model Management agency and then with Wilhelmina Models. By the age of 18, she was living in New York full-time and beginning to establish an international modeling career in print and on TV. She did magazine, catalog, and runway work in Milan, New York, Paris, and Tokyo.

Ritter's acting career began when Wilhelmina sent her to audition for a Dr Pepper TV commercial. Ritter told Philadelphia Style that she believed her "outgoing and bubbly and funny" personality entertained the casting people and eased her transition into acting. The ad job opened up doors, allowing her to play several bit film roles starting in 2001, eventually playing the role of a history student in Julia Roberts' Mona Lisa Smile (2003). In 2006, she appeared in two off-Broadway plays.

During those early years, Ritter had a number of guest starring roles on television, and appeared on the second season of Veronica Mars, playing Gia Goodman, the daughter of mayor Woody Goodman (Steve Guttenberg). She also guest-starred on Gilmore Girls for eight episodes from 2006 to 2007 as Rory Gilmore's friend, Lucy.

In 2007, Ritter moved from Brooklyn (New York City) to Los Angeles, where she continued to further her budding film and TV career. She lives in L.A. still, but splits her time between there and New York City. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 11/15/2017. The full-length version is available at Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
The Jessica Jones star makes an auspicious literary debut with Bonfire, spinning a suspenseful, psychologically gripping story.
Entertainment Weekly

In this adroit debut the star of Marvel's Jessica Jones proves her talents aren't limited to acting.… [Bonfire is] a thriller that delivers suspense, surprise and satisfaction.

(Starred review.) [A] triumphant…pulse-pounding thriller featuring a sympathetic, broken lead character.… Abby’s noirish worldview … is pitch-perfect, and Ritter effectively uses [her] present-tense narration to create immediacy.
Publishers Weekly

Ritter, lead actress on television’s Jessica Jones, is likely to attract readers with her name, but this strong, gritty debut is good enough to create its own fan following.

[Abby] digs deeper … all while wrestling with her own, somewhat predictable, demons that Ritter … tries admirably to spice up. A fast-paced thriller that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but introduces a tough female lead who’s easy to root for.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Would you call Abby an unreliable narrator? Do you trust her?

2. Do you relate to Abby? What are Abby’s greatest vulnerabilities? Do you think she has strengths or vulnerabilities that she is unaware of?

3. After working so hard to leave Barrens and her small-town roots behind, why did Abby return home? Did she find what she was looking for?

4. Why did Abby turn her environmental investigation into a search for Kaycee? Why did Abby keep pushing, even when she was threatened?

5. Describe Abby’s relationship with her father. How did her parents and upbringing shape who she became as an adult?

6. What do you think of Misha? Does the author intend for her to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?

7. What pressures led Brent to get involved with Optimal’s exploitation of local high school girls? Is Brent to blame?

8. Describe the scenes in which the town comes together to celebrate – their bonfires and football games. In what ways are the characters trying to relive their high school days? Do they succeed?

9. What does the novel say about reconciling with your past? Do you think Abby was happy that she returned to Barrens?

10. Could this story have happened in a bigger town or a city? What about Barrens made it easy for Optimal to take advantage of its citizens? Is there an underlying takeaway about the relationship between big companies and small towns? Explain.

11. Were you surprised by the revelations at the end of the book? Did you suspect Brent or Misha all along?

12. Are Abby and Condor a good match? Did you want to see them together in the end?

13. What do you think the future holds for Abby? Were you satisfied with the ending?)
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

top of page (summary)

Future Home of the Living God 
Louise Erdrich, 2017
288 pp.

A startling portrait of a young woman fighting for her life and her unborn child against oppressive forces that manifest in the wake of a cataclysmic event.

The world as we know it is ending.

Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans.

Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot.

The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—June 7, 1954
Where—Little Falls, Minnesota, USA
Education—A.B., Dartmouth College; M.A., Johns Hopkins
Awards—National Book Award; National Book Critics Circle Awards (2); Nelson Algren Prize
Currently—lives in Minnesota

Karen Louise Erdrich is an author of 15 plus novels, as well as poetry, short stories, and children's books. She has some Native American ancestry and is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

In 1984, Erdrich won the National Book Critics Circle Award for her debut novel, Love Medicine. In 2009, her novel The Plague of Doves was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, and three years later, in 2012, she won the National Book Award for Round House.

Erdrich is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The eldest of seven children, Erdrich was born to Ralph and Rita Erdrich in Little Falls, Minnesota. Her father was German-American while her mother was French and Anishinaabe (Ojibwa). Her grandfather Patrick Gourneau served as a tribal chairman for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota where her parents taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs school.

She attended Dartmouth College in 1972-1976, earning an AB degree and meeting her future husband, the Modoc anthropologist and writer Michael Dorris. He was then director of the college’s Native American Studies program. Subsequently, Erdrich worked in a wide variety of jobs, including as a lifeguard, waitress, poetry teacher at prisons, and construction flag signaler. She also became an editor for The Circle, a newspaper produced by and for the urban Native population in Boston. Erdrich graduated with a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University in 1979.

In the period 1978-1982, Erdrich published many poems and short stories. It was also during this period that she began collaborating with Dorris, initially working through the mail while Dorris was working in New Zealand. The relationship progressed, and the two were married in 1981. During this time, Erdrich assembled the material that would eventually be published as the poetry collection Jacklight.

In 1982, Erdrich's story "The World’s Greatest Fisherman" was awarded the $5,000 Nelson Algren Prize for short fiction. This convinced Erdrich and Dorris, who continued to work collaboratively, that they should embark on writing a novel.

Early Novels
In 1984, Erdrich published the novel Love Medicine. Made up of a disjointed but interconnected series of short narratives, each told from the perspective of a different character, and moving backwards and forward in time through every decade between the 1930s and the present day, the book told the stories of several families living near each other on a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation.

The innovative techniques of the book, which owed a great deal to the works of William Faulkner but have little precedent in Native-authored fiction, allowed Erdrich to build up a picture of a community in a way entirely suited to the reservation setting. She received immediate praise from author/critics such as N. Scott Momaday and Gerald Vizenor, and the book was awarded the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award. It has never subsequently been out of print.

Erdrich followed Love Medicine with The Beet Queen, which continued her technique of using multiple narrators, but surprised many critics by expanding the fictional reservation universe of Love Medicine to include the nearby town of Argus, North Dakota. Native characters are very much kept in the background in this novel, while Erdrich concentrates on the German-American community. The action of the novel takes place mostly before World War II.

The Beet Queen was subject to a bitter attack from Native novelist Leslie Marmon Silko, who accused Erdrich of being more concerned with postmodern technique than with the political struggles of Native peoples.

Erdrich and Dorris’ collaborations continued through the 1980s and into the 1990s, always occupying the same fictional universe.

Tracks goes back to the early 20th century at the formation of the reservation and introduces the trickster figure of Nanapush, who owes a clear debt to Nanabozho. Erdrich’s novel most rooted in Anishinaabe culture (at least until Four Souls), it shows early clashes between traditional ways and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Bingo Palace updates but does not resolve various conflicts from Love Medicine: set in the 1980s, it shows the effects both good and bad of a casino and a factory being set up among the reservation community. Finally, Tales of Burning Love finishes the story of Sister Leopolda, a recurring character from all the former books, and introduces a new set of white people to the reservation universe.

Erdrich and Dorris wrote The Crown of Columbus, the only novel to which both writers put their names, and A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, credited to Dorris. Both of these were set away from the Argus reservation.

Domestic Life
The couple had six children, three of them adopted. Dorris had adopted the children when he was single. After their marriage, Erdrich also adopted them, and the couple had three daughters together. Some of the children had difficulties.

In 1989 Dorris published The Broken Cord, a book about fetal alcohol syndrome, from which their adopted son Reynold Abel suffered. Dorris had found it was a widespread and until then relatively undiagnosed problem among Native American children because of mothers' alcohol issues. In 1991, Reynold Abel was hit by a car and killed at age 23.

In 1995 their son Jeffrey Sava accused them both of child abuse. Dorris and Erdrich unsuccessfully pursued an extortion case against him. Shortly afterward, Dorris and Erdrich separated and began divorce proceedings. Erdrich claimed that Dorris had been depressed since the second year of their marriage.

On April 11, 1997, Michael Dorris committed suicide in Concord, New Hampshire.

Later Writings
Erdrich’s first novel after divorce, The Antelope Wife, was the first to be set outside the continuity of the previous books. She has subsequently returned to the reservation and nearby towns, and has produced five novels since 1998 dealing with events in that fictional area. Among these are The Master Butchers Singing Club, a macabre mystery which again draws on Erdrich's Native American and German-American heritage, and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Both have geographic and character connections with The Beet Queen.

Together with several of her previous works, these have drawn comparisons with William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha novels. The successive novels have created multiple narratives in the same fictional area and combined the tapestry of local history with current themes and modern consciousness.

In The Plague of Doves, Erdrich has continued the multi-ethnic dimension of her writing, weaving together the layered relationships among residents of farms, towns and reservations; their shared histories, secrets, relationships and antipathies; and the complexities for later generations of re-imagining their ancestors' overlapping pasts. The novel was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

Erdrich's 2010 book, Shadow Tag, was a departure for her, as she focuses on a failed marriage.

Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Ojibwa and Chippewa). Erdrich also has German, French and American ancestry. One sister, Heidi, publishes under the name Heid E. Erdrich; she is a poet who also resides in Minnesota. Another sister, Lise Erdrich, has written children's books and collections of fiction and essays. For the past few years, the three Erdrich sisters have hosted annual writers workshops on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

The award-winning photographer Ronald W. Erdrich is one of their cousins. He lives and works in Abilene, Texas. He was named "Star Photojournalist of the Year" in 2004 by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors association. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
(Featured review.) [S]tartling…. Erdrich’s characters are brave and conscientious, but… they act mostly as vehicles for Erdrich’s ideas. Those ideas, however…are strikingly relevant.… A cautionary tale for this very moment in time.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) Masterful…a breakout work of speculative fiction…Erdrich enters the realm of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale…A tornadic, suspenseful, profoundly provoking novel of life’s vulnerability and insistence…with a bold apocalyptic theme, searing social critique, and high-adrenaline action.

(Starred review.) Dreamlike, suspenseful…this novel is bracing, humane, dedicated to witnessing the plight of women in a cruel universe, and full of profound spiritual questions and observations. Like some of Erdrich’s earlier work, it shifts adroitly in time and has a thoughtful, almost mournful insight into life on a Native reservation.… There is much to rue in this novel about our world but also hope for salvation.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Future Home of the Living God … then take off on your own:

1. Talk about Cedar Hawk Songmaker. How would you describe her and the traits, in any, that enable her to navigate this new world?
2. Describe the state of the world as it appears in Future Home. Is the portrait Louise Erdrich paints too far fetched and too extreme to be credible? Or do you find elements of it already present in our current world?

3. Follow-up to Question 2: In what way are our own present day anxieties reified, or given solidity, in Erdrich's novel?

4. Cedar writes, "The first thing that happens at the end of the world is that we don't know what is happening." What does she mean?

5. How would you describe Cedar Hawk's relationship to her unborn child, especially the letters she writes?

6. What does the government hope to achieve by rounding up pregnant women? In what way does it believe that the women might be the salvation of the human species?

7. Eddy tells Cedar, "Indians have been adapting since before 1492 so I guess we'll all keep adapting." Then he adds, [The world's] always going to pieces." Is he right — that societies have always regrouped, reformed, and rebuilt after disasters? Or this this current disaster, the one in the novel, different?

8. Is there a cause given for the devolution of the species? What, if any, explanation is put forth? Cedar posits that "Our bodies have always remembered who we were. And now they have decided to return. We’re climbing back down the swimming-pool ladder into the primordial soup." Is that explanation helpful?

9. What is the significance and/or meaning of the book's title, "Future Home of the Living God"?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2017