At the end of last year, I was happily surprised to stumble across and read The Giver by Lois Lowry. I’m not a huge sci-fi / fantasy genre person. But The Giver really moved me. I instantly empathized with 12-year-old Jonas, and was caught up in the details of his life in a futuristic, authoritarian society portrayed unforgettably by the author.
As I wrote in my year-end review of 2014 books, everything is pre-determined in Jonas’ world. There is no color. Everything that exists is utilitarian. There is no freedom to express emotions and feelings, except within a pre-approved framework. But everyone is happy because they don’t know anything else, there is heavy propaganda, and everything makes “sense.” Then, something rare and unexpected happens. Jonas is selected to become the next Receiver. He doesn’t know what this means until he starts his apprenticeship with the The Giver, who has a library of old memories of beautiful, and often painful things, that have been erased from society.
As Jonas receives the memories of beautiful things, like hills and snow and family togetherness, and Christmas, he starts to break free and question all of the conformity. Then he discovers a dark secret that threatens someone he loves, and involves the betrayal of one of his family members. Once he sets his course, he understands that there will be no turning back.
This book is thought-provoking and beautiful to the very end. So it was with great eagerness that I began the second book in this four-book series, Gathering Blue.
It took me a while to adjust my expectations about what I thought the second book should entail. Rather than pick up where the first book left off, Lowry changes the setting and characters to portray a completely different type of authoritarian society, one that is much more primitive, yet equally oppressive. Each book has a strong, gifted young person who thinks independently and outside the framework of his/her society. Gathering Blue was okay, but not as compelling. I wanted to hear more of Jonas’ story, so I was a little disappointed.
But, I kept reading the series because I was intrigued enough to see where Lowry was going with her plot.
The third book, The Messenger, links the first two communities in the first and second books, and involves a third community, that provides refuge to people fleeing tyrannical governments and looking for a safe haven.
The fourth and final book of the series, The Son, ties together all the lose ends. This book returns us to the community portrayed in The Giver, to introduce us to one of the birth moms in that community. In that society her only function is to produce children. She is not given the responsibility/ privilege to raise her own children. That is for someone else. But once the information slips that she has given birth to a son, her maternal instincts flare up and compel her to figure out who exactly her son is. In the end, she is faced with an extreme decision, to give up something priceless, in order to see her son and know that he is well. The whole focus on maternal love is absolutely lovely. I thought the author painted beautiful word pictures when she described the mother-child connection and the great lengths a mother will go to reach her child, be with her child, and make sure her child is okay and happy.
Some parts of the plot in The Son seemed a little convenient at times, but in the end, I felt like it was a good and satisfying wrap-up to a thought-provoking series.