Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Source: The Son by Lois Lowry

She turned away, feeling tears well in her eyes. What on earth was the matter with her? No one else seemed to feel this kind of passionate attachment to other humans. Not to a newchild, not to a spouse, or a coworker, or friend. She had not felt it toward her own parents or her brother. But now, toward this wobbly, drooling toddler–

“Bye-bye,” she whispered to him, and he looked up and wiggled his little fingers.

Claire choked back tears as she pedaled her bike back to the Hatchery. More and more she despised her life, the dull routine of the job, the mindless conversation with her coworkers, the endless repetition of her day. She wanted only to be with the child.... It was not right to have these feelings. Not normal. Not permitted. She knew this. But she did not make them go away

Lois Lowry’s final book in the Giver Quartet series, Son (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), takes the reader back to the source, the dystopian society she delineated in her initial volume. Her protagonist in this finale, Claire, we see to be indeed the source, the mother of the child Gabriel for whose sake Jonas, the chosen, the intended future Giver, flees his colorless world to save the life of the child he has come to love, the one who doesn’t quite fit into that regimented society.

In her own ceremony of the Twelves, when children are assigned their vocation, Claire is disappointed to be chosen to be a Vessel, a Birthmother, to be inseminated and to bring forth a Product, a child that she is never intended to see, taken at birth to the Nurturing House until its adoption by a parental pair chosen by the Committee. Unable to give birth easily, Claire undergoes a Caesarian and is decertified and sent to the community’s fish hatchery. But Claire realizes that she craves the depth of emotions felt during her pregnancy and secretly disposes of the “pills” given to all citizens, pills which she intuits hide the vividness, the colors and emotions of real human life, and keep the citizens docile. Having inadvertently discovered her “product’” was a boy designated only  “Number 36,” she befriends one of the Nurturers and volunteers to help with the babies in order to be with her own son.

But when Jonas, the boy chosen to receive the history of the society from the aged Giver, suddenly disappears, taking Claire's son, now named Gabriel, Claire has only one hope of finding him, to stowaway on one of the supply boats that move freely between communities along the waterway and and search for Jonas and her son. Claire befriends the cook, who helps her make her escape, but when the boat reaches the sea and is shipwrecked in a storm, Claire is the only survivor, brought ashore in an isolated communitym very different from the only one she had known, a primitive one of fishermen and farmers, but one in which the normal human emotions and attachments are deeply rooted in daily life.

Claire is taken in by a childless old midwife and healer, but as her memory of her former life returns, she is determined to return to the world she left behind and find her son. She manages an impossibly grueling climb up the cliff face, only to meet with a frightening figure, a man who calls himself the Trademaster, an evil force with dark powers who offers her a terrible trade–her youth for the chance to see her son again, and so she finds herself transformed from a strong and beautiful young woman into an old crone, bent and racked with the pains of age.

Her son Gabe is now a young man, also restless in the community of refugees from the dystopic
community from which he was saved by Jonas, now an elder of the town. Gabriel is drawn
to the river, obsessed with building a boat which might take him back to discover his own source and perhaps his true mother. Claire is at first content just to watch Gabriel from a distance, feeling that he could never believe her story, but as she nears death, she shares her account with Jonas, who alone can guide Gabriel to overcome the Trademaster and restore his mother to her true age and place in his life.

Lowry’s final tale in the series is totally absorbing, as Claire’s world expands to unite the earlier characters, Kira from Gathering Blue, Jonas from The Giver (Giver Quartet), and Mentor from Messenger,-in the final confrontation,  which comes down, as all such sagas must, to a showdown of good and evil. Lowry has developed this series as a river grows from its source to its final merger with the sea, using the narrative and metaphoric skills which have made her one of the most versatile and notable authors of her time. Hers is a brave theme, that human love can overcome the darkness arrayed against it, one told and retold through literary history and recently culminating most famously in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7). Dedicated readers of that series who came of age after Lowry’s The Giver won its Newbery Award in 1994 will find it worthwhile to read this and the other books in the Giver Quartet, which absorbingly tell the same venerable story in a much different but no less meaningful way.

"…A beautifully wrought political fable... [this] rare concluding volume will send readers back to the first," says The Washington Post. Kirkus Reviews puts it simply, "Bravo!"

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  • I really enjoy your reviews and your site! I was wondering if you accept requests for book reviews? I am working with a new author to get her new children's book some feedback. If you would be interested in getting details or a copy to review, please let me know! Thanks!

    By Blogger Living Free, at 11:09 AM  

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