Monday, June 2, 2008

The Giver by Lois Lowry

My first thoughts upon closing the cover of this prize-winning young adult novel: what a wonderful, powerful story and what a horrible, confusing and disappointing ending! I'm not opposed to ambiguity, but be warned if you haven't read it that the ending is beyond ambiguous. I'm not sure how I would have wanted the novel to end, but I'm not the author, only the reader. I immediately looked to see if there was a sequel, and there are not sequels, but rather "companion books." So perhaps my questions will be answered and my angst over the fate of certain key characters resolved.

The Giver is a great novel, worthy of the Newbery Award it received. It brings up the issues of freedom vs. order and security, emotion vs. intellect, and the utility and purpose of memory and history. At first, Jonas, the narrator of the story, seems to live in a utopian community. No hunger, no sickness, very little pain, a society of stability, order and contentment. However, as the story progresses, the reader begins to see hints that Jonas's world might not be as perfect as it looks. His mother, who holds a prominent position at the "Ministry of Justice", is disturbed about a repeat offender who has broken the rules for a second time. The third offense means release from the community. Jonas's father is a bit concerned about a baby at the Nurturing Center where he works who is not thriving and cries at night. Jonas himself is apprehensive about his Twelve Year ceremony, coming up in about a week, in which he will receive his apprenticeship assignment, the job assigned to him for his life's contribution to his community. Then, there's the airplane that flew over the community in direct contradiction to The Rules. All in all, it's an unsettling time for Jonas and for the community.

The Giver goes from unsettling to chilling in a little under 200 pages. Short but memorable. However, I'm not the only one who found the ending less than satisfying.

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