Yesterday, I took a road trip with my two daughters to get pick up my 88 year-old grandmother, who will be staying with us through the holiday season. At 5 and 9 years-old, my usual audiobook choices were clearly not an option. So, I found myself listening to some books that definitely are not my usual type, yet again.
With over 4 1/2 hours in the car each way, we were able to finish 2 audiobooks from start to finish. By pure coincidence, they both ended up being authored by Lois Lowry. I have never been more engaged in a children’s book than I was during this road trip. I was completely lost in these stories, as were my children.
The first book that we listened to was ‘The Giver’. What a captivating, albeit bleak, fictional world Ms. Lowry has created! I was absolutely spellbound by her storytelling.
Set in the future, Jonas lives in a community that has traded their humanity for the illusion of safety. They block anything that would trigger the emotional highs and lows that define a person’s life as we now know it. They don’t experience the heartache of loss, but they never give in to the joys of life either. They are shells, robotic in their day to day existence and devoid of emotion.
Although this is a children’s book, it had a feeling eerily similar to George Orwell’s ‘1984’. Independent thinking was non-existent. People “confessed” their thoughts, dreams and rule violations. The presence of the omnipresent leaders in their homes, ruling their lives, was pervasive and all-powerful.
Jonas is getting ready to experience the ceremony of 12. This particular ceremony is an important one in the community, a rite of passage into adulthood. It is at this ceremony that each child is assigned their job within the community. They will remain in their assigned role until they are no longer productive and they are “released”.
Unlike the other children, Jonas is unsure of his calling within the community. He doesn’t feel a clear draw to one occupation or another. He is worried of what the future holds for him and he is beginning to notice some unusual things that others do not.
Jonas is ultimately assigned a very prestigious role within the community. It is perhaps the most important role in the community, but comes with a tremendous burden. He cannot share his experiences with anyone other than the man that he will be replacing, the current “receiver”. As his training progresses, Jonas comes to question everything that he has ever been taught.
From beginning to end, this book held my rapt attention. It was beautifully written and thought provoking. ‘The Giver’ serves as a cautionary tale to the human race, warning of what can become when we censor our very emotions and blot out all of the differences that make us unique individuals.
There was plenty of action and suspense along the way. It was also a much more emotional read than I had anticipated. I’ll never forget the look on my 9 year-old’s face when some of the true meanings of different phrases, like “released”, truly sunk in. Don’t even get me going on baby Gabe! Luckily, I think most of that went over the head of my 5 year-old.
Overall, I thought that this was a spectacular book! It is one that I would not have normally read, but I’m so glad that I did. I can only hope that the lessons learned will resonate with my daughter and the other children that read it. An all-around great story! I’ll probably download the next books in the series for our next road-trip to take “Nana” home after the holidays.