I always credit The Giver with being the book that set me up to be an English major. I first read it when I was about 12, and I remember how much it made me think. I mean, actually think. What makes a perfect society? Which memories would we want to lose? Are there any? When is death merciful?
And, the biggest question in my 7th grade class, does Jonas live or die at the end?!
That question drove many of my classmates crazy, because they couldn’t understand how a book could leave anything ambiguous. No other children’s book really had, so we were all unprepared. But instead of the ending turning me off, I was fascinated. I couldn’t get enough.
I proceeded to read the book about once a year into my adulthood, finding something new every time. I knew Lowry had published a couple of sequels to the books, and I read Gathering Blue, but I was less than impressed. It wasn’t The Giver.
I decided to give the series a second chance when I heard that Lois Lowry would be reading from her latest sequel, Son, and signing books at Bookpeople in Austin. A chance to hear my childhood author hero speak?! Yeah. I was there in a second.
Lowry is very poised and well-spoken, and, interestingly, she seems more at ease with adults than with children. I feel like she seemed more like the authors I’ve seen who write for mainly adult audiences rather than those who write for children. I suppose that explains why she’s never shied away from writing about tough, non-kiddy subjects.
And yes, I did get to meet her briefly as she signed my book, but it was a really quick “Hello!” situation. Perhaps not the most personal author interaction I’ve ever had (that reward goes to David Mitchell), but hey. It was still pretty awesome.
I finally got around to reading Son this past week, and it lives up to The Giver.
Son tells the story of Claire, one of The Giver’s community’s birth mothers, and her quest to find her son after he disappears. The first part of the novel takes place in the same place and time as The Giver, so the reader gets a different view of the same characters, including Jonas’ father, Jonas and Gabe. The story follows Claire from the birthing center where all is controlled to new, very different towns that co-exist with the community in Lowry’s dystopian world as she searches for her stolen son. As she makes this journey, she has to evaluate exactly what she would give up to be reunited with a son she hardly knew.
This novel explores many of the same tough themes as The Giver: Government control, personal responsibility, safety vs. risk, and most of all, the nature of love.
Although I think The Giver is a bit less heavy-handed than Son in its telling, Son is a very satisfactory end of the series. I’m especially happy to say that Lowry does not hold any punches, making this just as good a book for adults (maybe more so!) as it is for middle-graders. And if the amount of motherly love doesn’t hit you in the chest a bit, you may need to get checked out.