Keeper of memories

A review of The Giver by Lois Lowry

It’s December again, and while every December brings a sense of anticipation in the community. But for nearly-twelve-year-old Jonas, this December is especially important. This is his Ceremony of Twelve, the ceremony in which he’ll learn what his Assignment is, the path that he is to follow for the rest of his life. In Lois Lowry’s 1993 masterpiece The Giver, Jonas has lived a happy existence in the sheltered unrelentingly same community. He attends school, abides by the set schedule and structured politeness of his fellow community dwellers, and is always sure to heed the voice that comes over the loudspeakers. He shares his dreams with his family every morning, and after school tends to the Adults Without Children who are preparing to be Received into Elsewhere.

Nothing prepares Jonas for the announcement, though, that he will have a rare responsibility: he will be the community Receiver. It’s a title Jonas has never heard of, but once he meets The Giver, keeper of the community's memories, his life is never the same. Through the Giver’s memories of life Elsewhere, Jonas sees a world filled with color, experiences, and sensations that he was never allowed to know about, much less feel. But with the Giver’s memories comes the truth about Jonas’s community, prompting Jonas to a desperate and potentially deadly decision.

Dystopias are an especially hot topic in children’s and young adult fiction as of late (see, for instance, The Hunger Games, City of Ember, Divergent). Yet Lowry’s The Giver presents a dystopia that poses a unique set of questions. What if you could live in a world where pain was minimized, there was no racism or favoritism, and everyone was able to work in harmony? Would it be more appealing if people didn’t even have concepts of unfairness, want or worry? And maybe most difficult to answer, if you were the only one who knew what feelings were, both good and bad, would you be willing to bear that burden yourself, or would you unleash them to people with no experience in dealing with them?

Combining beautiful language, a gripping plot and truly thought-provoking issues, The Giver became an instant classic, winning the 1994 Newbery Medal (Lowry’s second) and finding its way into curricula all over the country. Madison Public Library is lucky enough to host the author as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. Lois Lowry will appear in a special event at the Central Library previewing The Children's Theater of Madison production of “The Giver. Ms. Lowry will be joined by APT actor Paul Bentzen, who plays the title role in the stage adaptation of Ms. Lowry's award-winning book. The evening will feature readings from the novel and the play, comments by Ms. Lowry regarding the process of adapting her novel to stage and screen, and a Q&A session with the audience. Ms. Lowry will sign books after the event. This event is free to parents and recommended for children over 8, with no registration required.

Comments

Still my favorite book!  I can't wait to see Lois Lowry again at the Madison Public Library!  Now I know what happened to Jonas after reading "Son" by Lois Lowry.

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