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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Book review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

My name is Mary and I belong to a Book Club. What is a book club, you ask? Well, a book club is what happens when a group of moms desperate to use some big words (and a couple of well-placed small ones) in a conversation that doesn't include the question: "What's the magic word?" get together and discuss a book that they may or may not have read.

This past month, my book club gathered to discuss The Giver by Lois Lowry. Now, before you pass judgement, understand that we knew the book falls under the genre of Young Adult fiction and is geared for a pre-teen audience. Cut us some slack. Most of us in the book club haven't slept a full eight hours in years, so we're running on less than a full tank, okay?

The Giver tells the story of a young boy named Jonas and his coming-of-age in a community where there is no war, no fear, and no pain. In this community, there also are no choices. Because Jonas is now twelve, he is assigned the job that will take him from boyhood and through his adult years until he is sent to live in the House of the Old.

Once Jonas begins his training to become The Receiver, we begin to understand that Jonas's world is much different than the one that is first presented to us. And as his training progresses, we see Jonas's world--and the limiting qualities of it--through Jonas's eyes. It is then that we share his unrest and his burgeoning distrust of the society in which he lives and its force-fed culture.

It would be too simple to read this book and take away the message that choice is a good thing. Because is choice always a good thing? Perhaps living in a world without choice can be freeing, especially if you are unaware that you live in a world without choice.

But while ignorance may be bliss, once an individual--like our friend Jonas--becomes aware of the possibilities of choice and of the richness and color that a world filled with choice brings, that is when the pain of knowing becomes a difficult burden to bear. The question then becomes, Will Jonas be able to change his world?

I enjoyed reading a book geared for a young audience. I never had to read a sentence twice and yet the meanings were still rich with possibility. For example, how should one interpret the ending? Is it hopeful or not?

My book club discussed the ending of the book and the issue of choice, which spurred us onto discussions of male circumcision, knitting during the Olympics, and why having a personal shopper pick out your clothes is a good thing. It's these offshoot discussions that make being part of a book club so fun.

Next month, my book club will read and discuss Joan Didion's memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking so we're moving up the literary food chain rather quickly. By the end of the year we'll be tackling Homer's Iliad and exploring the idea of Helen of Sparta as the ultimate Mother Figure and comparing the ten-year-war to the modern day battle of maintaining one's self identity while raising children. I can see it, can't you?

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