Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Son - Lois Lowry

Looking back, I can hardly believe I had not read The Giver until this year.  The Newberry Award winner captivates with its elegant simplicity and introspective message.  Upon completion, I immediately read sequels Gathering Blue and Messenger, which, though not to the level of The Giver, were also quite enjoyable.  The series reaches its conclusion in new release Son, which Lowry just published this year after a long gap between books.  Lowry had promised a book which would bring the first three to a cohesive conclusion.  While she did that, and her writing remains superior to so many others, I found myself somewhat unsatisfied by her conclusion.

Son breaks down into three sections.  The story, as a whole, describes the life of Claire, a Birthmother in the original Giver society.  Though its an easy guess from the start, Lowry gradually reveals that the child Claire gives birth to grows up to be Gabe, the child Jonas rescues in The Giver.  The first section of the book describes Claire's life in the emotionless society and her slow discovery of motherly love.  This portion was easily my favorite part of the novel.  Lowry offers a new perspective on the mysterious culture of The Giver.  We learn more about how things work in their society, which accounts for a lot of what drew me into the first book to begin with.  Lowry brings Jonas and his father into the story as Claire interacts with Gabe.  The prospect of seeing the effects of Jonas's departure on the society excited me; however, Lowry again leaves us questioning the fate of the community.  Claire escapes on a riverboat the same night Jonas leaves.  

The middle section finds Claire marooned in a seaside village after, presumably, the riverboat she escaped on sank in a storm.  Her memory has vanished and she has so much to learn about the outside world.  The village healer takes her in and teaches her about colors, about weather, about animals, about all the things Claire had not yet experienced.  Over time, her memory returns in pieces and she becomes overwhelmed by the need to find her son.  In this village, only one other person has ever left and returned.  This man trains Claire to "climb out" of the isolated community by way of the cliff face walling them against the sea.  He warns her, however, that someone will meet her at the top, at which point she will have to be willing to trade something for the whereabouts of her son.  After years of struggles and hours of climbing, Claire reaches the top of the cliff and meets the Trademaster (from Messenger).  He gives her the location of her son, in exchange for her youth.

On to the third and final section.  Claire, now an old woman, though only seven years have passed, lives in the village from Messenger.  She watches over Gabe from a distance as he grows into a man, but never reveals herself.  Jonas and Kira, now married and parents of two small children, also live in the village; their special powers have faded with age.  Eventually, Claire tells Jonas her whole story and he, in turn, tells Gabe, who is preparing to leave the village in search of the mother he has never known.  The story climaxes with Gabe facing off with the Trademaster, or Evil as Jonas calls him, to save Claire's life.  He prevails over Evil and Claire's youth is returned.  This portion of the book left me the most unsatisfied.  Emotionally, I wanted a reunion between mother and son, which we do not really get to see.  The only time Lowry shows them interacting directly is when Claire is on her death bed.  Even Gabe's battle with Evil feels anticlimactic emotionally.  Beyond that, though, I felt strong disappointment in the amount of real answers we received.  Granted, Lowry has never been an author that gives more information than the story needs (hello, Giver, Blue, and Messenger).  We do see Jonas and Kira as parents, which is satisfying and a nice touch.  In my opinion, however, there is still so much missing.  Some of the great questions stemming from The Giver still remain: What was the fate of the Giver? What happens when the society is flooded with color and emotion and memories upon Jonas's departure?  Who was behind that society and how did they keep things running?  Obviously, this is a part of the story that Lowry was not interested in telling.  Still, I do not think I am alone in readers wanting to hear that story line.

Overall, the book is good.  It does deliver on its promise to bring all three previous novels together.  Yet, somehow it still leaves me unsatisfied.  My complaint lies not with Lowry's writing, beautifully simple as always, nor with her characters.  In the end, Son is lacking some of the magic that The Giver initiated.  The supernatural element that Lowry brings in with the Trademaster, for me, does not resonate with her original premise.  I hoped for a more logical, scientific explanation to some of the things that happened in the series.  Still, Lowry writes well and she writes true young adult novels.  Her books do not rely on the sensuality and violence that many other in this genre do.  She gives us an adequate conclusion, but not one that will make the same waves as her opener.

Have you been let down by a long anticipated sequel?  What are your thoughts on The Giver series?

Pages: 393
Date Completed: November 6, 2012

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