Fantasy, Fiction, Series & Collections, Young Adult

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

giverWhen I was in college and majoring in Humanities, my brother used to tease me by saying that I was studying how to “be human.”  His good-natured mockery annoyed me a little, but after reading The Giver, I now realize that studying how to be human is exactly what I was doing.

When we use the word “humanity,” what does that mean?  Is it a noun?  A verb? An adjective?  Is it spiritual or evolutionary? And can it be taken away?

Even online dictionary definitions are a bit vague.  “Branches of learning.” (Humanities.) “Human attributes or qualities.” (Humanity.)

I pose this question:  Branches of learning according to whom?  Human attributes or qualities according to whom?  All of mankind?  Others in our particular culture?

Which brings me full circle to the question, can it be taken away?

In The Giver, nameless communities who subscribe to the idea of “Sameness,” are doing their very best (with much success) to force the humanity out of humans.  This is done by removing choice and suffering, the very things that aid our individuality, wisdom and personal growth.

Only one person, the Giver, is burdened with the memories of generations before when Sameness didn’t exist.  And his protegee, the Receiver, is training to succeed him.

I will say no more about the plot because the beauty of this story is letting it unfold before you in the timeline the author has created.  Lois Lowry, in a mere 200 pages, produces a world that we all, jokingly, have said would be a better one.  The truth, however, is very different.

Her writing is as efficient and ordered as the community itself.  No words are wasted. No expository paragraph is set to take up space.  She treats her readers as intelligent, feeling, thinking beings–the opposite of the way those in the community are treated.

The only spoiler I will put here–something to expect–there is no ending.  This is the first book in a series of four. Does that lessen its impact?  No.  This is a beautifully written, profound story that makes you question what is and what could be.

The Giver Series:

The Giver Quartet

A quick commentary about the upcoming film being released on Friday.  For lack of a better word, there is a certain “volume” (noise level, not book number) to The Giver.  Lois Lowry’s language is quiet and steady, much like the characters’ surroundings.  The film’s trailer shows that volume turned up and intensified.  The trailer also reveals important plot points, which is disappointing. Some films based on books enhance the story (the Harry Potter films are excellent examples.)  Some do not. I fear that seeing the film first will detract from anyone’s upcoming literary experience.  If you have the patience and desire, do yourself a favor and read the book first. I think you’ll be glad you did. 🙂

10/10 Enthusiastic Stars

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