19 February 2008
10 The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another YA lit book for class.
This one starts in some kind of controlled world, a planned community right down to how many children will be born each year (23), and how many each family can have (2). Jobs are assigned by a committee of Elders, but so are husbands and wives (who apply to have a child, and ask for a boy or a girl). One of the jobs in the community is Birth Mother, and these are the only women authorized to have children. After three births they are sent to be field hands and manual labor. Other jobs are Nurturers, who tend newborns until they are placed with families.
There are rules such as no touching, no anger, and the suppression of all sexual desire (by taking a pill every morning). Lying is forbidden.
We follow the story of Jonas, who is 11 when the story starts. At age 12 each of the kids is assigned their life-long job. In the Ceremony he is skipped over and not given an assignment. The Elder calls him up last, and explains that he has been selected to be the Receiver of Memories. Because the populace is so suppressed, they have virtually no communal memory (old people are removed. Once kids leave their parents' home the parents are reassigned). Jonas will be tasked to meet with the Giver, who is to pass him memories telepathically.
Jonas and the Giver get to talking about why memories are stored in one person. At first Jonas sees the wisdom in it. When every single aspect of life is controlled there is no reason for choice to exist, and if there is no choice, then no memory is required - no need to make decisions based on wisdom. The Giver, and Jonas when he takes over, serves as the community wisdom. If the elders get stumped, they come to the Receiver of Memories and ask for advice.
Jonas eventually comes to see this as a bad plan. So he escapes to make a new life, and help disrupt life in the community he leaves behind.
At just 179 pages, this book left me wanting more. It's a good idea for a story and could have been developed a lot more. I mean, it's a book for middle school kids, but I could see the same idea being worked a bit more thoughtfully in the hands of an Aldous Huxley, etc...
Crumbolst's brief review here.