Monday, March 16, 2009

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry (audio) with a guest post by Ryan

First we read "Gossamer" by Lois Lowry, and fell in love. I quickly snapped up "Messenger", which I found out was the third in a series of three Lowry books (and the kids stopped listening to because they didn't like the narrator!). Did it matter that I read it out of order? I'm finding that perhaps it did. The Giver is the first of the series, and is a Newberry winner, and the kids and I excitedly started listening to it in the car. We found ourselves sitting in the driveway listening to it when we got home, not willing to turn it off. This book blew us all away.

Jonas is an 11-year-old who lives in a perfect world. There are rules of course, all designed to maintain "sameness". Everyone is assigned a job at the age of 12, one that is a perfect fit to each individual, emotionally and physically. Emotions, such as love, passion, anger and hate are supressed by taking pills. Designated women bear all the children for the community. The babies are nurtured in a loving, institutional environment, and in time, are assigned to a family. All families can have one female child and one male child. Once someone grows old and cannot work anymore, they are cared for in a loving, institutional environment, and then eventually "released". If someone breaks the rules too many times, they are "released". There is no war. There is no hunger. There is no prejudice. There are also no animals, no sun, no rain, no snow, no colors, no choices. But the good people of the community don't really know what they are missing, because they've never had it to begin with.

At the Ceremony of the 12's, Jonas receives his life's assignment...the Receiver of the Memories. Apparently, this is a very honored role, but nobody really knows exactly what it means or what is required. Jonas begins to meet with The Giver, who is the current Receiver of the Memories, for his required training and ultimately the passing of the baton. The Giver explains to Jonas that with the job brings great burden. He explains that soon, memories from back and back and back will be transfered to him. These memories will give Jonas great wisdom, which will be used to advise the elders in the decision-making for the community. Jonas begins to receive wonderful memories from The Giver...of Christmas, of sledding, of Grandparents...things he has never known. He also receives memories of broken bones, of hunger, parental abuse, war and death. He receives chilling insight to the way things really work in the community. Jonas begins to question everything he has known to be true. Is it better to live in a sterile environment without choices where you are safe, and is this even to be considered living? Who has the right to enforce such a thing? Jonas decides that his humanity is too big a price to pay, and takes his fate into his own hands.

I find it difficult to find words to explain how thought-provoking Lowry's books are. Her books can be interpreted in so many different ways, and provide excellent mental exercise for kids and adults alike. This one, in particular, brings to mind questions of governmental control, communism, and even the importance of one's individuality. The end of the book is very ambiguous, with some open-ended questions. Some that were answered by "Messenger". My son, who blew me off when I was listening to Messenger, ran out and got it from the school library, and read it about a day. He reminded me of a few things that I had forgotten, and we quickly linked the two books. (This is the child that hates to read because he can't sit still, so I can't tell you how proud this makes me.) Here is what Ryan had to say:

This was a very well-written book by one of my new favorite authors. I couldn't stop thinking about the book, and I couldn't wait to get in the car and start listening to it again. Many of the parts were disturbing, especially near the end, but I liked that. It didn't scare me, and it made me think. Even though Jonas' community is perfect, I don't think I would like it at all. I can't wait to read "Gathering Blue", the next book in the series.


Melody said...

Great review, Sandy!
I want to read this, but I'm still waiting for my copy to arrive after getting it from BookMooch. I hope the sender will send the book to me soon. ;)

Beth F said...

Great review by both of you. I like Ryan's thought about wanting to read more but not wanting to live in that world. That shows how great the book was.

Unknown said...

You've both managed to persuade me to give it a try! I've just ordered a copy!

Melissa said...

I remember this one being a favorite when I was younger. I still have my copy and need to read it again.

Iliana said...

Enjoyed reading Ryan's mini review too! :)

This is one of those books that I keep meaning to get to and just haven't. I didn't know about the designated birth mothers bit... brings back memories of The Handmaid's Tale! Thank you for the review and yes, it's on my list!

Unknown said...

I think it's a terrific book and I'm glad to see you all liked it.

I'm not a fan of the sequals. I did read one of them. The Giver has an open ending, one that readers can all interpret any way they wanted. The sequal put the kibosh on my interpretation.

My interpretation was better.

But, it's still a great book.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - it is worth the wait! Just make sure you read it in order!

Beth - the whole utopian thing was so creepy, but it definitely didn't stop us from loving it.

Jackie - I'm glad...I can't wait to get your take on it!

Melissa - it IS worth a re-read. I'm sure your insight would change, the older you get. The concepts are pretty complex for kids, but mine still got the general message.

Iliana - in the story, none of the children are with their birth parents, and have no knowledge of their grandparents. How sad!

James - I guess we had the advantage (not sure if that is the right word?) to have read the third book already, so we sort of knew where it was going.

Anonymous said...

Natalie is reading this right now - and she keeps telling me how interesting and wonderful it is.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Carrie - I'd make sure you had the second and third of the series lined up now. She will want to pick them up the second she finishes this one!

The Bumbles said...

That cover looks so familiar to me and the title rings a bell - but none of your plot description does. Hmmm.

Literary Feline said...

I've heard such great things about this book but have yet to read it myself. You've written a very compelling review, Sandy. Great job!

Unknown said...

I've just finished reading it - it was a thought provoking read, which I think is great for children, but only average for an adult.

I'll post my review tomorrow. I look forward to seeing your thoughts on Gathering Blue.

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