Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Giver - Lois Lowry

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read this book that Lowry's classic won the 1994  Newberry Medal.  In  retrospect, I'm quite surprised that it took me until age 25 to read this novel.  The name has been familiar to me for some time, but I've never actually read it.  However, it's been showing up on quite a few lists of books recommended to those who have enjoyed The Hunger Games, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  I am so glad that I did.
The Giver tells the story of Jonas, a 12-year old boy in a futuristic society.  His world contains no pain, no feelings, and no color.  People in this community, Jonas included, do not know that they are missing these things.  They live within the confines of "sameness" and any discussion of differences is frowned upon.  Everything changes for Jonas, however, when he is selected to be the next Receiver of Memories.  It is upon his selection that he begins his training with the previous Receiver, now called the Giver.

The Receiver begins to transmit the memories of the world to Jonas...color, weather, feelings, experiences, pains, wars, all is given to Jonas.  As Jonas' eyes are opened for the first time, he begins to realize what a sad world he lives in.  Those around him have no understanding of what they are missing out on.  They do not feel for each other.  Infanticide and euthanasia are commonplace, termed as "release" for those who are not contributing or cooperative members of society.

Lowry is a phenomenal writer. To read The Giver makes more recent attempts at distopian/eutopian novels seem unpolished.  She weaves a beautiful story and the reader finds their eyes being opened to the situation along with Jonas.  She ends the book with many questions hanging, and so I am eager to get my hands on the next novel.  

Beyond the simple story, though, Lowry is presenting us with a very realistic sounding future.  The ideas and scenarios that she presents all have at least an ounce of rational thinking behind them.  That is what is so scary about the community Jonas lives in.  It would not take too many steps for us to get from where we are to where he is.  Lowry's vision is thought-provoking and challenging.  We must learn to appreciate one another's differences, rather than eliminating them.  Differences are what make the world beautiful.  To take away color and music and emotion would leave the world, well, gray and lifeless.  Life would be an unquestioned routine, just as it is for the members of Jonas' community.  The Giver is a beautiful reminder that we must never take the differences in those around us for granted.

Pages: 204
Date Finished: April 1, 2012

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