Tuesday, January 26, 2016

not a mystery--THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

Over the years I have read and liked several Newbery Award-winning young adult novels.

Lois Lowry sets The Giver (1993) in an apparently Utopian society. Everything is painless and perfect.

In her Newbery medal acceptance speech, Lowry described it this way: "In beginning to write The Giver I created--as I always do, in every book--a world that existed only in my imagination, the world of 'only us, only now.' I tried to make Jonas's world seem familiar, comfortable, and safe, and I tried to seduce the reader. I seduced myself along the way. It did feel good, that world. I got rid of all the things I fear and dislike; all the violence, prejudice, poverty, injustice, and I even threw in good manners as a way of life because I liked the idea of it."

For Jonas, everything was bland. Every age had a role--an age to learn to use snaps, an age to learn to use buttons, and age when you got your bicycle, and an age (12) when the Elders assigned you your life's work.

Jonas had no love, happiness, pain, grief, knowledge of colors, or fears of any kind.

Then at twelve the Elders assigned Jonas the role of Receiver of Memories, the most honored role in the community. The past Receiver of Memories became The Giver, the one who transferred his memories to Jonas who would hold them and protect them.

Even this society could not destroy memories. It could only keep them away from the people, store them in The Receiver.

A Receiver had stored memories for as long as anyone knew, as the books says, "back and back and back."

But Jonas and The Giver plot to change things.

To me, this was The Giver's story. I'm sure most people focus on Jonas, but The Giver's life includes a special tragedy. That tragedy motivates him to want to share his memories with the people. 

As the book explains, to share his memories with the people in a way that doesn't destroy them, The Giver needs Jonas's wholehearted cooperation.

The Giver works with Jonas to try to destroy the utopia and replace it with a society filled with love, mistakes, choice, freedom, happiness, pain, and grief.

Jonas's society is filled with lies. Disguised lies. Even death is hidden.

Now Jonas works with The Giver to create something different.

The book ends in an open-ended way.

I found this book in a list of Kindle specials. I plan to order and read Lowry's other Newbery Award book, Number the Stars.


Mathew Paust said...

I no longer cotton to utopian or dystopian fantasies, per se. But if the writing can reach beyond the predictable expectations and disappointments, and make me care for a character or two, I might climb aboard for the ride. This sounds promising, Joe.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks for the note. This book is a quick read. Like I said, The Giver had had heartbreak.