BOOK REVIEW: THE GIVER BY LOIS LOWRY


Life in the community where Jonas lives is idyllic. Designated birthmothers produce newchildren, who are assigned to appropriate family unites: one male, one female, to each. Citizens are assigned their partners and their jobs. No one thinks to ask questions. Everyone obeys. The community is a world without conflict, inequality, divorce, unemployment, injustice... or choice.

Everyone is the same.

Except Jonas.

At the Ceremony of Twelve, the community's twelve-year-olds eagerly accept their predetermined Life Assignments. But Jonas is chosen for something special. He begins instruction in his life's work with a mysterious old man known only as The Giver. Gradually Jonas learns that power lies in feelings. But when his own power is put to the test - when he must try to save someone he loves - he may not be ready. Is it too soon? Or too late?




As the blurb on the back cover informs us, the New York Times dubbed The Giver "a powerful and provocative novel". And of all the adjectives in the world that could be bestowed upon it, provocative feels like the most appropriate one. In the spirit of the precision of language so frequently called upon in The Giver, provocative feels like the most precise adjective of them all.


Some books take proverbial ages to develop a point, and even longer to get that point across. And with a myriad of such books on my shelf, it still astonishes me just how many questions The Giver has raised for such a quick, short read. And therein lies its provocative nature.

From infancy we struggle to avoid pain. We will go to great lengths to circumvent the negative. Instinctually and through example, we tuck away the very notion of sadness, of grief, of hate, of pain, of despair, of hopeless longings. We strive, in other words, for lives and for a world devoid of the negative. And in doing so, Lowry warns, we strive for a world devoid of basic feeling.

We strive for utopia. Much as The Giver is categorized as dystopian fiction, it tells the tale not of a dystopian world, but of a utopian one. This world, incidentally, eerily mirrors our own. It is not a great leap from the world Lowry has dreamed up to the one we inhabit. And by creating a utopia without the negative - and without feeling, color or love, Lowry makes it blatantly clear what is fundamentally wrong with this ideal we strive for.

The Giver reminds us to go about our lives with ardor, with vigor, and - most importantly - with feeling. Our unpredictable lives - as witnessed through Jonas - are a small price to pay for feeling. For diversity. And for a freedom of choice. It's not that we can't live without these things. It's that we shouldn't.

And it is for these reasons - though I wish the novel would have been a standalone - that I loved it - in all the precision of language I can muster. And it is for this reason I am raving about it now. With vigor, with ardor, with feeling.

Lois Lowry, thank you for your wisdom.






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BOOK REVIEW: THE GIVER BY LOIS LOWRY
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