Title : The Giver
Author : Lois Lowry
Publisher : Harper Collins
ISBN : 978-0-00-726351-6
This is a story of a young lad Jonas, who is eleven now and is quite apprehensive about the upcoming ceremony where all Twelves of the community will be assigned an occupation, a job, a position in the community. Jonas is a member of a 'perfect' community where everything is same, in order, under control, as per the rules in the great rule book - the only book accessible to people of the community. The houses are exactly the same, the dresses of people are alike, each family unit comprises of a mother and a father and they can apply for one male and one female child. The community is unaware of any kind of emotions or feelings - happiness, sadness, sorrow, love, affection, suffering. They have not even heard of things like hills, mountains, snow, sunshine and even colors. This is because long back, the people of this community had chosen 'sameness' for themselves.
Even the terminology in the community is fixed and cannot be changed - children younger than one are called 'newchildren', same age children are 'groupmates', and weak, elderly, diseased or people who break rules three times are being 'released'. There is a set pattern to everything. The children at eight begin their volunteer hours where they are observed by the elders who later assign the children their roles in the community at Twelve. On the crucial day of assignments, Jonas is selected as a new 'Receiver of Memories'. He gets this unique responsibility owing to his intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom and capacity to see beyond. The elder Receiver becomes the Giver now and needs to pass on the memories of the past, of all the feelings, emotions and truth to Jonas.
While on the journey to receiving memories from the Giver, Jonas as an intelligent student realizes that their 'perfect' world is not so perfect in reality. People have no freedom of any kind - what to wear, what to eat, which profession to chose or even selection of a partner - everything is decided or assigned as part of the community rule.
Through his training as Receiver of Memories, he experiences how there is so much more to the world and to the life which has been completely eradicated from their worlds. After having experienced the best of memories of being loved in a family setup to the painful memories of war and sufferings, Jonas decides that he must do something to bring in the change for himself and for his people. He sets on a journey to the 'elsewhere' land with whatever little reserve of memories he had received from the Giver over one year.
I really liked the subtle way how Lois Lowry described the perfect world yet bringing the feeling of uneasiness about the whole setup. The narrative had a wonderful flow to it but found one thing lacking in it - the Giver never mentions why exactly people chose the 'sameness' for themselves and how it happened. The end is a little mysterious leaving the readers wanting for more. A wonderful and completely out-of-the-box plot and executed with excellence.
Many controversial topics are being touched in the story - infanticide, suicide, euthanasia, sexual arousals (stirrings), concept of surrogating (separate group of females assigned the work of mothering). These issues have made this book a little controversial and I understand that in some US states, this book was banned for some years but now it is part of sixth grade curriculum in some schools. I feel there is a lot of scope of discussion about these issues through this story and good way to understand how young adults feel about the differentness, uniqueness and sameness.