I read The Giver in high school and adored it. I loved its abstract nature while still rooting itself mostly in reality. I recently watched the film adaptation, and doing so inspired me to revisit the book. Because three companion pieces came out between the time I read the original work and the movie, I felt compelled to read the entire quartet.
Gathering Blue and The Messenger proved to be a rather large departure from The Giver, happening in the same “universe” but still only loosely related. Both of those books leaned far more into the realm of fantasy than science fiction, and I frankly had trouble connecting to the ambiguous morality tale they assumed.
Son, however, offered the best of both worlds. It begins in The Giver’s community, but it ends in the village of the other two books. As most will agree, Son is a direct companion piece to The Giver as it initially occurs parallel to Jonas’ story. It follows Claire’s story, a birth-mother who doesn’t last long at her assignment. She yearns to be with her only child, which is a rarity in the community, and takes drastic action to do so. However, she’s beaten to the punch by Jonas, and it becomes fairly obvious rather quickly that Claire is Gabe’s mother. It seems Gabe was destined to live as it is revealed he had two protectors all along.
Once Gabe is taken, Claire decides to do anything to be with her son. Through a series of hardships and obstacles, and though it takes years, she eventually makes her way to The Messenger’s village where Gabe is now a hearty young man. Claire, unfortunately, is now unrecognizable thanks to a vicious evil, an evil which Jonas declares Gabe must eradicate.
When I initially read The Giver, I related to Jonas as he was similar in age and temperament. Interestingly enough, I now relate to Claire as I am the father of two children myself. I understand her innate need to be with her child, to love her child, to protect her child at all costs.
Son utilizes both science fiction and fantasy as it begins heavily with the former and ends almost exclusively with the latter. I personally found it ended more akin to a fable than anything, and I honestly felt disappointment as Claire took a backseat to Gabe when the story became his. I cannot argue, though, that it ties the previous three books together nicely and answers some frustrating questions introduced in The Messenger.
Son is a worthy conclusion to The Giver even if it is a departure in both tone and theme. I am so glad to know Jonas and Gabe’s fate, and Claire cemented herself as a pinnacle character in the series as well. I have no doubt young adults will particularly relish Lowry’s tale of overcoming evil, the enduring love of family, and the call of morality we all should heed.