As part of my voluntary writers’ group homework, I was told to read several books in the same genre as my own novel to get a sense of pace, structure, style, and so forth. A book with a strikingly similar word count, series length, genre, and audience is The Giver by Lois Lowry.
I find The Giver and its sequels to be a moving, thought-provoking set of stories for readers of any age. Here are some of my thoughts on the four books in The Giver Quartet.
The Giver is the first and most famous book of this series. With its simple, but striking style and story, it’s no wonder this book won the 1994 Newbery Medal. The Giver tells of 12 year old Jonas’s journey to receive the memories of the past, a burden shouldered by the man called the Giver. The emotional toll of humanity’s many experiences and feelings drives young Jonas to want more out of life than what his community can offer. His society exists in black and white, never delving deeper than shallow thoughts and feelings. A year of experiencing life in all its vibrant, varied flavors teaches Jonas the meaning of love, honesty, and justice. In pursuit of all three, he risks everything to escape his cold, colorless community and save the life of a baby named Gabriel.
This book has spirit, heart, and a gripping narrative that challenges the imagination.
If the inconclusive ending of The Giver left a gaping hole in your heart, fear not! The story continues. Though you’ll need to wait until the third book to meet Jonas and Gabe again, it takes almost no time at all to form an equally strong attachment to Kira, the heroine of the series’ second novel. Kira’s resilient spirit in the face of physical and emotional hardship makes her a compelling character from the outset.
Gathering Blue expands the Giver world by introducing a community radically different from the scientific, well-ordered town of the first novel. It’s survival of the fittest in Kira’s village, a rule that has always spurred her to contribute to society with her incredible gift for sewing. This gift draws the notice of the Council who commission Kira to mend the Singer’s robe, a garment of sacred importance used yearly when the Singer recounts the story of humanity. Kira soon learns that the Council plans to force her and other gifted children to shape the future to their liking. With the help of friends, Kira aims to steer her community toward its true destiny.
Kira’s rambunctious young friend Matty returns as the protagonist of this story. This short third novel was, to me, the most heartbreaking and symbolic of the four. It also had the strongest social message outside of the first novel. Village, with its diverse population and high number of immigrants from around the world, acts as a metaphor for the United States. When greed poisons the welcoming spirits of Village’s citizens, some begin a movement to ban all outsiders from entering. Kira remains in her old community, separated from her father. If she does not come soon, she will never be allowed to do so.
Matty embarks on a journey through the Forest, which has become increasingly hostile and deadly, to bring Kira to Village. The poisoning of Forest directly parallels the darkening of the peoples hearts in Village. Matty’s power of healing ultimately restores peace, harmony, and hospitality to Forest and Village, but at the cost of young Matty’s own life. His Christ-like sacrifice earns him the title of Messenger. Jonas, Kira, and the citizens of Village aim to better themselves in memory of the boy who gave them the chance at new life.
This final installment ties together all the characters and events of the previous three books. The story takes us back to the time and setting of The Giver by introducing Gabriel’s biological mother, Claire. The young Claire is just a year or two older than Jonas when she is assigned to be a Birthmother. During her first delivery, something goes wrong which results in a hasty surgery (which is never named, but might have resulted from a bursting of the womb during birth) that leaves her unable to have any more children. After being dismissed from the Birthing program and separated from her child, Claire does everything she can to stay connected with her son by volunteering at the Nurturing Center. But we all know what happens next. Jonas flees the community with Gabe to save the baby’s life. Claire, devastated, gets on a boat to go in search of them, but is lost at sea in a storm and washes up in another community with no memory of anything more than her name.
Part two of the book details Claire’s years in this cliffside community where she grows, learns to see colors, and regains memory of her son. Claire’s passion and determination make her another compelling character. Having had a hysterectomy at 21 years old, I felt a personal connection to Claire as well and identify with her determination to love herself as a person capable of giving so much to the world and whose value is not tied to her ability to wed and bare her husband’s offspring. The only way out of the community is by sea or the seemingly unscalable cliff. The cliff acts as a physical representation of Claire’s spiritual journey as she spends years physically preparing herself for the climb out of the community to find her son. She will sacrifice romance, friendships, and even her youth to reunite with her lost chil
The final part of the story shifts focus to Gabriel. Now a young teenager, Gabe still longs to know more about his past. Who are his biological parents? What was the Community Jonas rescued him from like. Would he find the answers he seeks there? Gabe discovers that his mother has been within reach for some time. Claire, now an old woman due to her deal with Trademaster (who is basically an incarnation of Satan), has been in the Village for years, silently watching over her son. Now she is dying and its up to Gabe to use his gift of empathy to reverse Trademaster’s curse
The ending of Son does feel rushed and anticlimactic in parts, however the final reunion of Claire, whose youth is restored, and Gabe is a heartwarming conclusion to their story. We also learn that Kira and Jonas have wed and have two children, including a son named after Matty. With all remaining heroes and heroines now part of one extended family, we can close the door on this story feeling satisfied that they did indeed find their happy endings.
Have you read The Giver Quartet? What is your favorite book in the series? Tune in tomorrow for the return of the Midweek Movie Review on The Giver 2014 film adaptation.