When the president of the United States signed an order blocking federal funding for international charities that discuss abortion, Louise Erdrich was enraged. She channeled her anger into a new project.
"It infuriated me on a level that I didn't know how to deal with — so I began to write this book."
The president was George W. Bush. The year was 2001.
And the novel, which imagines the government seizing control of all women's reproductive rights, had a promising start. But Erdrich, who calls herself a "short attention span person," eventually moved on to other projects.
Those projects include more than five other novels, including the "The Round House," which won the National Book Award in 2012.
Then, in 2017, history repeated itself.
President Donald Trump reinstated the same order, which dates back to Ronald Reagan. It prohibits funding international organizations that "actively promote" abortion.
When the news hit for the second time, Erdrich said, she could "do nothing but search for this old manuscript."
Her work from seventeen years ago felt urgently relevant again.
One problem: It was locked away on an outdated iMac. Erdrich had to enlist several people to translate the digital gibberish back into a salvageable manuscript. With that as a foundation, she began to write again.
• More: Best fiction picks of fall
The result is "Future Home of a Living God," which was just named one of Kirkus' best books of 2017.
The novel follows Cedar Songmaker, an Ojibwe woman raised by wealthy white liberals in Minneapolis. She finds herself pregnant at 32, just as the world is falling apart: Evolution has stopped, sending everything into chaos.
"I'm interested in evolution," Erdrich said. "We don't know why it started, so how about stopping it and seeing what happens in fiction?"
Cedar reconnects with her birth family up north as the uncertainty grows. Will future babies be viable, with evolution running backwards?
The government begins imprisoning all pregnant women for observation and study. The crackdown sends Cedar into hiding, spinning through an underground world of people willing to help her keep her secret.
Though many have hailed the book as a brilliant entry in dystopic fiction, Erdrich shies away from the term.
"I thought of it as a sort of realistic scenario," she said. "That's why I don't know I can call it a dystopia. It's set as though this could happen tomorrow in Minneapolis and St. Paul, or it could happen in fifty years."
For the full conversation with Louise Erdrich and MPR News host Kerri Miller, use the audio player above.