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The Giver    by Lois Lowry order for
by Lois Lowry
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Delacorte, 2006 (1993)
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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The acclaimed writings of Lois Lowry remain in print and are destined to be classics. In The Giver, Lowry creates an alternate world. Family units include two parents with two children - one boy and one girl. Recognition is given at a ceremony for each year of age until twelve, when childhood is left behind. Then assignments are handed out based on the person's aptitude, which has been closely scrutinized over the years by the Committee of Elders. Assignment titles include Nurturer, Laborer, Birthmother, Director of Recreation, Caretaker of the Old, and Fish Hatchery Attendant.

Jonas approaches his Ceremony of Twelve, with excitement and pride, apprehension and fear. His father is a Nurturer, 'responsible for all the physical and emotional needs of every newchild during its earliest life'. Jason's mother is a member of the Department of Justice - after three transgressions, community members face immediate Release. When Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory, he's ignorant of what the honor entails, and learns he will experience joy, but also much pain. There is only one Receiver (the most prominent among the Elders), whose duty it is to train Jonas. On the day that Jonas is selected, he receives an instruction folder with pages to study. To his confusion, he finds only one page, with instructions that are contrary to rules instilled during his childhood. Jonas's biggest challenge will be 'The Capacity to See Beyond'. During his first year of study with the Giver, Jonas faces many worrisome and grievous concerns, leading to vexatious decisions.

I was captured by the ingenious complexity of Lowry's alternative society. The book's open ending left me pondering what the conclusion signifies, and thinking about parallels between Jonas's world and today's social issues. For those who enjoy Lowry's work, I also recommend The Destiny of Linus Hoppe and The Second Life of Linus Hoppe by Anne-Laure Bondoux as excellent reads from a gifted author.

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