"This Notebook, Your Letter"

The Future Reader and the Pivotal Present in Louise Erdrich’s Future <i>Home of the Living God</i>

  • Sindija Franzetti Lund University
Keywords: epistolarity, future reader, pivotal present, temporal polyvalence, intergenerational time


This article proposes epistolarity as a productive critical framework for exploring the concept of ‘present futures.’ The analysis focuses on Louise Erdrich’s novel Future Home of the Living God with the aim to demonstrate how letter writing can help us conceptualize the complex interrelations between the present moment and the future. Cedar, the Ojibwe narrator, writes a letter to her unborn child during unprecedented evolutionary and climate crises. The present moment is fraught with uncertainty, and the future is difficult to imagine. Through her epistolary efforts, Cedar writes against apocalyptic future narratives. Her letter creates a space for present and future encounters between the writer and her addressee even if the world as we know it has ceased to exist. In the novel, I argue, key elements of epistolarity such as the central role of the reader, the significance of the present moment of writing, and temporal polyvalence disrupt the conventional notion of time as a linear progression. Whereas linear time moves from past to present to future, the act of letter writing in Erdrich’s novel directs our attention to the future as a vital and vivid presence in the present moment. In the novel, the ‘you’ being addressed is also already a part of ‘me,’ the narrator. This epistolary bond between a mother and her unborn child in the novel extends the biological connection between them into the realms of culture and history.