Friday, March 11, 2011

The Giver

The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages.

It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.

The Giver is one of my FAVORITE books, and one of my favorite books to reread. I love spending time with Jonas. I love reading about his world, his family. I love the strangeness of it. How this community has made an idol of sameness and sought to control just about everything. The community chooses not only your life's profession, but your spouse and children too. (If you're lucky enough to be granted either. Not everyone is. Some are common laborers, after all.)  But I don't want to say too much. Because I do think this makes for a better read if you don't know too much ahead of time. 

When the novel opens, Jonas, is preparing for The Ceremony of Twelve. He's apprehensive, yet curious. What occupation will he be assigned? Will he like his training and enjoy his new responsibilities? Will it really take him away from his closest friends? His parents warn him that it will, that this really is the start of his new life, his adulthood. Jonas's assignment is life-changing--no doubt about it! It's also quite unique. It has been several generations since a new Receiver has been announced....

But just what is it he'll be receiving? Can he handle the stress and anguish? Can he handle the truth it will bring to light?!

"We don't dare to let people make choices of their own."
"Not safe?" The Giver suggested.
"Definitely not safe," Jonas said with certainty. "What if they were allowed to choose their own mate? And chose wrong? Or what if," he went on, almost laughing at the absurdity, "they chose their own jobs?'
"Frightening, isn't it? The Giver said.
Jonas chuckled. "Very frightening. I can't even imagine it. We really have to protect people from wrong choices."
"It's safer."
"Yes," Jonas agreed. "Much safer." (98-9)

"Do you love me?"
There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. "Jonas, You, of all people. Precision of language, please!"
"What do you mean?" Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he had anticipated.
"Your father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it's become almost obsolete," his mother explained carefully.
Jonas stared at them. Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful as the memory.
"And of course our community can't function smoothly if people don't use precise language. You could ask, 'Do you enjoy me?' The answer is 'Yes,'" his mother said. "Or," his father suggested, "Do you take pride in my accomplishments?' And the answer is wholeheartedly 'Yes.'"
"Do you understand why it's inappropriate to use a word like 'love'?" Mother asked.
Jonas nodded. "Yes, thank you, I do," he replied slowly.
It was his first lie to his parents. (127)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Unknown said...

A banned book - all more of a reason to read it :)

Kailana said...

Such an amazing book. Really have to reread it!

samantha.1020 said...

I've read this book a couple of times and each time I've walked away with something different. I'll be interested to see what my oldest thinks of it when he reads it in a few years.

Jessica said...

for some reason I always thought this book was a huge read. Ive added this to my TBR list

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I love this one too. Last year I saw a play version of the show and it was fascinating. I also saw Lois Lowry speak and she talked about how the story was inspired by someone close to her getting alzheimers and the importance of memories. Great review!