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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Audible Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is a different, thought provoking, dystopia.
The Giver
    by Lois Lowry

    Narrated by Ron Rifkin
        Series: Giver Quartet, Book 1
    LENGTH    4 hrs and 41 mins
    RELEASE DATE    11-07-03
    PUBLISHER    Listening Library

Genre: Dystopia
My Rating: 4.25 of 5.0

Publisher's Summary
December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve-year-old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man, the man called only the Giver, he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.

Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.
©1993 Lois Lowry; (P)1993 Random House, Inc., Listening Library, An Imprint Of Random House Audio Publishing Group.

Jonas is an eleven year old about to go through the annual Ceremony for twelve-year-olds to be assigned their role or job in the community. The adults have watched and monitored the youth to determine their best placing. Jonas realizes that his friends, Fiona and Asher, have been assigned jobs appropriate to their personalities and desires. Fiona, a caring young girl, will be trained to become a Caretaker of the Old, helping the elderly with bathing, dressing and daily living until they are released in a joyous celebration. The release celebration is believed to mean that they are moved onto another community across the river.

Jonas’ active friend Asher is assigned to train in the department of Recreation which Jonas sees as well suited. But what position will Jonas be assigned? To his surprise he is initially passed over and then proclaimed to train to be a keeper of memory. This is a greatly honored position which pulls him away and apart for everyone else, including his family. He finds himself being trained by a man called The Giver. This aged man holds all the memories of the past, including all the nuances of emotions–from pain to joy and love. He has the wisdom to help the leaders of the community to make decisions to avoid the mistakes of the past. But none of this information can be shared with others so The Giver leads a pretty solitary life.

When Jonas begins to share the burden of The Giver he learns of happiness and love but also pain and grief . He realizes certain lies that control his family and community. As he questions The Giver on the rightness of the system they begin to plot a means to force change on the community.

This story is set in a (presumably) future time when certain communities have settled around a system of control that is based on “sameness”. Personal emotions have been limited and controlled by trained (manipulated) family and educational teaching along with imposed medication that apparently suppresses natural emotions. Personal choice doesn’t exist.

I found myself captivated by the idea of the story and was eager to know what would happen as Jonas began to see and experience a fuller life of color and feelings. Would the emotions of love, joy and freedom overcome the trauma of physical pain and grief? That seems to be the real issue of the story and it makes you think about the value of free choice.

This is the first of several (four I think) books in the series. This ends at a point that leaves the reader to wonder what will happen to Jonas and the community. I will seek out the next book to see where it goes.

Audio Notes: I had some issues early in the book with the whininess of the narrator, especially for the younger characters like Jonas and his younger sister. As I began to accept that this might be fitting for the characters I relaxed into the listening. After that I was able to focus on the storyline and for the most part enjoyed the reading. I recommend listening to a sample before you decide to purchase as an Audiobook.

I read this from my own Audible Library TBR files.

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