Super Series Saturday: The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry

Saturday, February 09, 2013

I loved The Giver growing up, but never had any particular interest in the two companion novels, Gathering Blue and Messenger -- until I read the synopsis for the fourth and final book in the series, Son. Pregnant with my own son, I was intrigued by both the return to characters from The Giver and the theme of motherhood. I decided to reread The Giver and complete the quartet.

The Giver is a classic, and I read it several times growing up (although I did get sick of it when I had to read it a third time for school). Set in a society where everything is rigidly controlled and strong emotions like love are nullified, the young man Jonah receives a strange assignment with the rest of the children of his age receiving their occupational assignments. Through this assignment, he learns about the burden and blessing of choice, something that has been taken away from the people in his society. Something about that eerily placid community fascinated me from the first time I read the novel, and Lowry's stark prose vividly portrays the uncomfortable truths Jonah's dystopian town raise. While I certainly enjoyed the story growing up, I think as an adult it has more significance to me as I have come to better understand the underlying themes. It is an extremely powerful novel.

Gathering Blue initially seems to have nothing to do with the world of The Giver, except for the fact that it takes place in a dysfunctional society. This society is much more primitive, with rigid class separations, the ritual killing of those with deformities and illnesses, and a song sung every year telling the history of their village. Kira is plucked from her home due to her talent for sewing, and initially she is thrilled -- a new home, recognition, safety. However, she soon learns that those who chose her are restricting the expression of the people in the village, and she begins to see the importance of having that freedom of expression. To be honest, this book didn't appeal to me nearly as much as The Giver or of any of the other books in the quartet. I definitely appreciate its message, but the story was slow moving and didn't pull me in.

Messenger, on the other hand, was much more interesting to me, although it became slightly bizarre and more fantasy-like than the other novels. It follows Matty, a character we meet in Gathering Blue, and his life in a new village that has sought to cast off the injustice and rigidity of the many different dystopian societies that fill the world. However, problems are creeping into even the tolerant Village (utopia becomes dystopia...), and Matty's special talents make him pivotal in saving the Village and the friends he has come to see as family. Again, some of the elements in Messenger were decidedly bizarre, but it was much more adventurous than Gathering Blue or even The Giver and the climax was powerful and devastating.

Son, the final book in the quartet, had a very different feel than any of the others. The story is about Claire, the mother of Gabe, a character we meet in The Giver. Claire has the role of Birth Mother, providing children for the perfect little families in Jonah's community. However, something goes wrong with her birth, and she is given another assignment. What the authorities don't know is that Claire saw her son and has become attached to him, and willing to find him at all costs. However, the journey is unlike what she expects. A criticism I've read of this book is that Claire's maternal search for Gabe is something that kids, the target audience of Son, won't be able to relate to. However, I think many of Son's readers are those of us who enjoyed The Giver as children. With that said, it does have a slightly different feel than the rest of the quartet. It is much longer, for one thing, and also has that same fantastical element that permeates Messenger. Overall, it does an excellent job of binding the characters from the previous two books together and illustrating the overall message of the series: the importance of choice and loyalty to oneself.

1 comment:

  1. I have never read any of these.....but I have been wanting to get into a book, so I think I will pick up The Giver mon at the library!!!


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