Sometimes a novel is similar to a wave in how its impact builds momentum, breaks, recedes, and begins the cycle all over again. The Giver by Lois Lowry is such a book. First published in 1993 it pushed societal paradigms, gathered a following, and is once again building another following due to the film adaptation. It’s still considered controversial some twenty years later. The story is deceptively simple, yet profound in its impact. There are so many issues presented: government control, euthanasia, loss of innocence, and dystopia versus utopia. Lowry presents these heavy issues with a light hand and leaves reader with hope in its ambiguous ending. It deservedly won the prestigious Newberry Award.
For many years The Giver remained a standalone title. And then Gathering Blue came out in 2000; however, it wasn’t a true continuation of The Giver and frustrated many readers looking for answers, because it teased a bit, alluding only slightly to Jonas’s world. Readers had to wait until 2004 for Messenger, which served as a bridge between The Giver and Gathering Blue. Alas, answers still weren’t totally available and finally in 2012 closure arrived with Son.
Having read The Giver when it first came out, I was impressed with its message, although a bit dissatisfied with its ambiguity at the end. “That’s it?!?” I felt like shaking the book to see if I could render out the last drop, maybe find the missing resolution or at least find a denouement of sorts. I wasn’t aware of the succeeding books that formed the quartet and had the distinctive pleasure of reading the quartet in succession after watching the 2014 film adaptation of The Giver. Due to the sizable waiting list for The Giver (could it be the movie stirred people to seek out the original?) I began reading the other three and saved The Giver for last. Glad I did so, because the library (love my library) bought the newest edition, which is a twenty year celebration of the novel, and it contains an introduction, a reflection, by Lois Lowry. Her humor and unique outlook is prevalent and added a dimension to the reading I wouldn’t have probably gained reading the standard paperback issue. A bonus section (special features?) included interviews of different actors from the movie including Taylor Swift.
Yet, there is more to Lois Lowry than The Giver. Her talent extends to comical middle reading found in the Krupnik series which is about the plucky Anastasia and her rascally brother Sam. Another notable book, her first Newberry Award, is Number the Stars, which covers the Danish Resistance in WWII. Lowry’s diversity is evident when scrolling through her impressive book list of thirty plus titles which range from picture books to historical fiction, and include young adult reads. I have been exploring other Lowry titles and I am amazed by her diversity. For instance, I just finished an audio reading of Silent Boy, which reminds me of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird recalling her childhood memories from an adult perspective. Another audio novel, The Willoughbys is radically different from any of her other works. This a parody of all those long ago old-fashioned tales starring orphans who make good after much travail. Think Lemony Snicket meets Pollyana. The reading was enhanced by the reading talents of Arte Johnson, best remembered by his Laugh In days. The humor varies between lampoon and subtle, the vocabulary rivals SAT prep exercises, and there is a constant anticipation of “What next?” right up there with “This is a kid’s book?”
Lowry is one of those authors who provides the reason why adults peruse the kids’ section when searching for a good read.
Interesting bits about Lois Lowry:
- she’s been a contestant on Jeopardy
- traveled to Antarctica
- had The Giver turned into a play, opera, film, and musical
- she’s been a clue in a New York Times crossword puzzle
- has owned numerous dogs, cats, and horses
- has a great little author website