Friday, July 13, 2012

Son by Lois Lowry, the 4th book of The Giver Series is a moving read on its own!

This book is the last of The Giver Series and it’s to be published in October by Houghton Mifflin.  I read The Giver when my son was eleven and depressed by the book.  As a student of science fiction, I like dystopias, but didn’t understand why 11 year olds were reading about a kid with the job of killing old people. It seemed unrelentingly bleak, though probably not, if compared with the reality of life in North Korea.  As I learned from the teacher, The Giver’s educational value was to provoke thinking about society.  I did the question sheets, coaxing my son to feel less for the hideous lives of characters and think more about why their life was organized that way.  These books say 12 and up, I urge caution for teachers assigning for 6th grade.

At fourteen, my son is eager to read SON and may have read Gathering Blue and Messenger. The heroine, Claire, is 14.  And without reservation, I recommend this book for older kids and adults, even if they haven’t read the other three. I found SON emotionally moving, psychologically convincing, and magical in a tangible way that’s surprising.  SON reminded me of the classic Howl’s Moving Castle, made into a Miyazaki movie (Spirited Away director).  The mythological beauty and cruelty in SON is both akin to that story and a completion of THE GIVER.  Claire’s journey takes her out of the hopeless dystopia to a place of homecoming, celebration, fulfillment.  But to get there she has to be willing to give up everything she possesses.  And the vehicle for her transformation is mother love.

Ridiculous as that might sound, Lowry’s talent makes this love both heroic and an atypical compulsion. In Claire’s world, where utility is the highest value, emotion is a shameful secret.  She first feels this forbidden love, when she gives birth to a “product.” A birthmother unlike others, Claire feels empty when it’s carved out of her. Reassigned to a fishery, she tracks her child to Jonus’ father, a nurturer, and manages to mother him. But his failure to fit the community narrows his options and Jonas flees with the boy.  Claire must follows on a perilous journey.  Along the way, she almost dies at sea, but is brought back to life by an herbalist, and grows to womanhood in an agricultural community surrounded by dark lethal cliffs.

Claire trains years to scale them and makes it, only to encounter a supernatural evil with whom she makes an impossibly cruel trade to find her son. Hidden and wraithlike, she reaches an end of time. Her only deliverance is her son Gabriel, raised by Kira and Jonus. Then It becomes Gabriel’s turn to battle evil and take his place in the idyllic community founded by refugees.  By the end of this book, you see how people could make a utopia, if they can join their cumulative wisdom.  Having left other societies, Lowery’s people gain the courage to remake the world.