Thursday, January 24, 2013
Son by Lois Lowry
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Source: BEA in exchange for an honest review
They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice. (courtesy of Goodreads)
My all time favorite childhood book is The Giver. I read it in 8th grade, a year or two after it was published, and was blown away. It was the first utopian dystopian (probably the first dystopian) that I'd ever read. I was taken in by the perfectness of Jonas's world and disturbed as the seedy underbelly of the society was revealed. I was thrilled when Lois Lowry chose to follow up The Giver with Gathering Blue and The Messenger. Now we have Son, the final book in The Giver series..
Son is the first follow-up book to take us back to Jonas's world. Claire is the birthmother of Gabriel, the baby that Jonas tries to save in The Giver. I loved reading about Jonas's world (I'm not sure what else to call it) from a different perspective. As a Vessel or birthmother, Claire did not have the privileged position that Jonas had. It was also fun to get the perspective of a slightly older character than Jonas. There was less family interaction than there was peer interaction.
Most of the book takes place when Claire escapes from Jonas's world. This disappointed me a little, because Jonas's world was the most interesting setting but I understand that it had to take a back seat to the plot. Claire searches to the ends of the earth for her son. In doing so, she encounters the characters from The Giver, Gathering Blue, and from Messenger. Her path is long and fraught with danger and sadness.
Claire is an enticing character. She starts off the novel as sweetly naive. Doing what she's told because she's never had the need to question anything. But when she understands that as a Vessel, she gave birth to a son - a son who is slated to be killed - she changes radically. Claire is steadfast and strong. She is the type who never makes waves, but quietly stands firm until she accomplishes her goal. I greatly respected her willingness to do whatever it took to reach her son.
Son is classified as a children's book because of The Giver. Like The Giver, it is a mixture of a fantasy and a dystopia. But I think the book should be classified as an adult novel. It is very dark and very depressing. Where The Giver eases you into the dangers lurking underneath Jonas's idyllic society, Son fairly quickly drops you off a cliff into despair. Claire's sadness and the trials she undergoes in the search for Gabriel is probably more than I could have handled as a preteen or young teen. Frankly, it was almost more than I could handle now.
To put the book in context, The Giver was published in 1993. In 1995, Lowry's son died in a plane crash. When I learned that, the book made so much sense. Son - whether consciously or unconsciously - is more about Lowry trying to "find" her son, trying to come to terms with his death than it is about Claire and Gabriel. Knowing the events of Lowry's life make this book even sadder but beautiful as well.
Son is a poignant, bittersweet yet ultimately redeeming novel about love, loss, acceptance, personal growth, and happiness. It is far more disturbing than The Giver. Unlike The Giver, I don't see myself re-reading this book, but in a lot of ways it is more meaningful. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loved The Giver.
*Don't read it if you haven't read The Giver first. Ideally read Gathering Blue and Messenger before reading Son, but it's not as important.