What do I think of Lois Lowry’s book published by Laurel Leaf, Paperback? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I had an old neighbor post on Facebook about how she was concerned that her son is being told in school to read a book called The Giver. I talked with her a little bit, but I didn’t do anything beyond at that point. Then I saw one of her neighbors post something about the book asking if anyone remembered being asked to read it.
So at that point I decided I would see what I could find out. I went to Libby and managed to borrow the book for free on Kindle. I had been told that there was a lot of dark stuff in the book and I do know that there is a lot of garbage being shared and taught in schools. When a book is mandated, I don’t know what to expect so I started reading this one and I will try to avoid spoilers.
The story deals with a sort of dystopian society in the near future. The oddity is that this dystopian society on the surface looks like a place that you would want to live. People seem to get along well and everyone has their job. People are not rude to each other and do not live with great pain. Suffering is dealt with very easily.
The story centers around a boy named Jonas. He lives in a society where he and his friends have their names, but I noticed that adults are never named. Their parents are referred to as Father and Mother. That’s it. I cannot remember a single adult that was named in the book.
In the society, it is unclear how the children come to be. After all, as Jonas is coming of age, he starts to have what are known as the “stirrings” In this, he has a dream where he wants another girl in the community to take off all her clothes and get in a tub. The mother starts telling him to take a pill every day.
In this society, rudeness is rebuked at every chance and everyone has to be precise with their language. Children grow up with a discipline wand and get smacked if they do something out of line until they learn the rules. People apologize at the slightest possibility that they might have offended someone and every evening, they share their feelings time where they talk about their feelings.
Children are also divided by their ages. At the start, Jonas is an eleven and his sister Lily is a Seven. It is unclear to me if all these kids are said to be born at the same time so that they come of age at the same time. Children are not really born in the family but more assigned in the family. It’s unclear how this works, but it is a book for youth.
At each age, the way the children behave change. Lily at seven is still allowed to have a comfort object which is a stuffed animal and she looks forward to being a nine when she gets her own bike. The big age is twelve when each person gets their assignment and role in the community.
As you go through the book, you also learn that animals don’t really exist in this society, aside from apparently fish. Jonas starts noticing some items in his society changing and he can’t really explain it and the reader is unsure what is happening. As the story progresses, you learn what the society is missing.
Jonas is assigned a role to be the keeper of the memories of the community and works with the person called the Giver. I really don’t want to say much beyond that except Jonas starts seeing that what his life is is largely a facade. The people are living in a society where their major life choices like spouse and work are made for them by the leaders all because if the leaders don’t, the person could make the wrong choice and that could hurt.
That doesn’t mirror anything in our society at all does it?
We don’t live in a society where we try to do anything we can to avoid someone suffering. We don’t live in a society where everyone’s feelings are put in the place of utmost importance do we? Nope. Not us.
But the problem is, this society has to eliminate a lot of good to protect everyone from pain. Medication is there to make sure no one really experiences deep pain. Love is not a word that is used because that could lead to rejection. I suspect this is also why “the stirrings” are eliminated because sexual attraction and relationships can lead to a lot of pain. Again, how the kids come about is not entirely explained.
And there are even darker things underneath the surface of this society. That gets into a lot of spoilers so I don’t want to go into it. Still, learn that this society is one that has a lot of evil going on and it is treated as if it is normal.
So now, is this for kids, such as pre-teens or young teens?
I think it’s obviously not for kids in the single digits. These kids need to be old enough to understand the birds and the bees. Now it is true that this book has a lot of darkness in it, but the good reality is that this is presented as evil.
It’s another lesson that we really can’t create a perfect utopia society. This might be a society without pain and suffering, but it is not a society you should want to live in, especially when you see all that is missing in this world as everyone tries to achieve “sameness.” Any time people try to create a perfect society, it only ends in tears.
Suffering is a part of reality this side of eternity and doing everything to avoid it will in the end only lead to more suffering. A good society will not try to eliminate suffering ruthlessly, but will realize that you can learn through the suffering on the path of being good. A good society will also celebrate childhood. It will accept children playing and coming into adulthood on their own.
In the end, I did enjoy the book. I am considering if I want to read the rest of the series. It’s just that I have so many books that I am reading right now and I spent a lot of time recently because I had to go through all six books of the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. (No. That is not a typo or ignorance. Fans of the series understand six books in a trilogy.)
So while children I think should read this, it would be good for their parents to be there to discuss evil and suffering. Frankly, most of us grow up not knowing how to explain evil and too often we just take an often easy answer. “There’s no God.” Okay. That doesn’t really deal with the problem. As I have said earlier, if you take this route, then you still have the problem and you eliminate the solution.
In the end, this is an interesting book and a good one to introduce children to the idea of a dystopian society. I also hope our society will learn from it. Trying to protect everyone from any suffering will not end well. Teaching people how to deal with it is a lot better.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)