Son, by Lois Lowry

Son, by Lois Lowry  Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

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Publication date – October 2, 2012

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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.

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

Thoughts: The Giver was an amazing book that presented mature themes in a way that younger audiences could grasp. Gathering Blue tackled the issues of brutal societies and forced art. Messenger was occasionally baffling and unfocused and probably would have been better as a standalone novel rather than a continuation to The Giver, and was undoubtedly inferior to the previously two books.

Son just breaks the hell out of almost everything Lowry established in previous installments, with the exception of Messenger. Personally, I think that the only reason it made the bookshelves at all is because of its ties to The Giver. The bulk of the novel is about a young woman trying to get her son back after he was taken from her, and the loss she feels because of the situation. However, more often than not it seems like she’s a central figure to the story only because the story is going on around her. If Lowry meant to leave readers feeling distanced from the action and incapable of relating to Claire, then she certainly accomplished what she set out for. Otherwise…

We start the story in Jonas’s old community, and plenty of references are made to the events of The Giver to keep the reader centered. Unfortunately, this brings in the first major way that Lowry messed up her own continuity. She actually had characters refer to the Giver and the Receiver as separate people. It was previously established that there is the Receiver of Memory, and Jonas was his apprentive, but the title of Giver was something that seemed to be known only between the old man and Jonas themselves. He was still known as the Receiver to the rest of the community.

Later dissatisfied with her life as a Birthmother after her son was taken from her (post-partum depression, and given the community’s very ordered and structured methods, it’s surprising that there was no pre-existing way to deal with this), our protagonist leaves, develops amnesia, and is re-raised by a fishing village that is confined by large cliffs. She eventually regains a sense of purpose and climbs the cliffs to leave, and finds her way to the village that Jonas established and presides over. But not before she encounters a dark and sinister man (the Trademaster, who was so bafflingly introduced in Messenger) to whom she basically trades away her youth.

From here, the perspective switches to that of Gabe, the young child who left the community with Jonas in the first book. Claire is, from here on, pretty much an incidental figure, someone who happens to be there but doesn’t actually do anything. This is, above all else, what made me think that Lowry mostly wanted to do a story about post-partum depression and the loss a young mother can feel, but didn’t think it would sell well on its own. She shoe-horned it in with an existing story from The Giver‘s universe, and left the whole thing feeling like 2 separate short stories rather than one cohesive novel. Sadly, it weakened both stories.

Anyway, we get to see Gabe’s big destiny is to defeat the Trademaster once and for all, shrinking and eliminating the embodiment of evil with the power of mercy and goodness. For the ending of a kid’s speculative fiction novel, this wouldn’t normally be bad. Clear-cut divisions, an ultimate triumph. But when you take it in context with the universe it came from, it seems like a cop-out. In The Giver, there are some hard-hitting issues tackled. Euthanasia of children for the convenience of others. Restrictive dystopias. Freedom and uncertainty versus captivity and security. Things that actually make people think hard no matter what their age. To have all of that come down to nothing but a rather tame battle between good and evil felt like nothing so much as the author just wanting to wrap things up in a neat package. It wasn’t challenging. It wasn’t even that interesting.

It also didn’t explain anything that had confused me about the Trademaster from the previous novel. It was obvious there that he was pretty much an analogy for the devil, but his appearance seemed so random and unsuited to the setting that I felt like I was missing something vital every time he was mentioned. Go from hard-hitting issues to being careful what you wish for was a let-down, and I wasn’t exactly picked back up in the fourth and final novel of the series.

Ultimately, this book wasn’t a good one, either in context or out of it. From my own standpoint, The Giver and Gathering Blue were wonderful as standalone novels, and didn’t need to be tied together in what became a disappointing series with unsatisfying conclusions. This one is definitely worth passing over, even if you enjoyed the previos novels. Possibly especially if you enjoyed the previous novels.

Sad to see something so amazing fall to this.