From the Publisher
"Written with powerful, moving simplicity, Claire's story stands on its own, but as the final volume in this iconic quartet, it holistically reunites characters, reprises provocative socio-political themes, and offers a transcending message of tolerance and hope. Bravo!"
—Kirkus, starred review
"Lowry is one of those rare writers who can craft stories as meaningful as they are enticing."
—Booklist, starred review
"Son is a tender conclusion to this memorable story, and definitely the best of the books in this sequence since The Giver itself."
—School Library Journal, starred review
"The strength of this novel is its compassionate portrait of a mother's commitment to her lost child."
"In the completely absorbing opening, Lowry transports readers back to the horrifying world from which Jonas came."
“A consummate stylist, Lowry handles it all magnificently: the leaps in time, the shifts in perspective, the moments of extreme emotion — fear, joy, sadness — all conveyed in unadorned prose that seizes the heart. Give this book to your child, your grandmother, your senator, your neighbor: It’s a bipartisan tale for our times.”
—The Washington Post
“Lois Lowry's Son [is] a gripping end to the Giver series”
—The Los Angeles Times
“It's the kind of book that will stay with you for days as you wonder about what it says about human nature, society, and the future of society.”
"A quiet, sorrowful, deeply moving exploration of the powers of empathy and the obligations of love."
—The New York Times Book Review
In eighteen years, Newbery Medal winner Lois Lowry has written only four novels, all standalone novels set in the same futuristic world. This finale to The Given Quartet introduces a new heroine, a 14-year-old girl who literally washes up on the beach of this strange world.
The Washington Post
…[a] beautifully wrought political fable…A consummate stylist, Lowry handles it all magnificently: the leaps in time, the shifts in perspective, the moments of extreme emotionfear, joy, sadnessall conveyed in unadorned prose that seizes the heart…This is the rare concluding volume that will send readers back to the first.
The New York Times Book Review
Son…isn't a rehashing of the same dystopian fireworks we've seen too many times before, but a quiet, sorrowful, deeply moving exploration of the powers of empathy and the obligations of love…we follow Claire's search for her son, and what seemed like a dystopia resolves itself into something of a quest novela journey of endurance, courage and the occasional miracle. The all-encompassing maternal urge may not seem the most kid-friendly of subjects, but Claire's desperation to reclaim a missing piece of herself is universal. Readers of any age will be hard-pressed to stop turning the pages in the hope that her son might await her on the next.
Drawing characters and themes from The Giver and its companions, Gathering Blue and Messenger, Lowry concludes her Giver Quartet nearly 20 years after the Newbery Medal–winning first book was published. The story is divided into three sections, and in the completely absorbing opening, Lowry transports readers back to the horrifying world from which Jonas came. The spotlight is on 14-year-old Claire, a Birthmother who is given an emergency Caesarean to save “the Product.” The child survives, but Claire is coldly “decertified” and sent to work elsewhere, mystified as to what happened to her and her baby. Those familiar with The Giver will feel the pieces fall into place as Claire figures out which Product is hers and tracks his progress. Part two details Claire’s decade-long struggle to remember who she is, and it suffers slightly from having a main character afflicted with a well-worn plot device (amnesia); the final third reunites characters from all three previous novels for a showdown with evil incarnate. If the latter sections don’t quite keep up with the thrilling revelations of the first, Lowry still ties together these stories in a wholly satisfying way. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Naomi Milliner
If you thought J.K. Rowling had the last word on the power of maternal love, think again. Son, Lois Lowry's fourth and final installment in "The Giver Quartet," is well worth the wait. Told in three parts ("Before," "Between," and "Beyond"), the novel introduces a new heroine, Claire. She belongs to the same community as Jonas (the young hero in Newbery Award Winner, The Giver); in fact, at age fourteen, she is only three years his senior. Assigned the job of birthmother, she delivers a childa sonbut he is immediately taken from her, sight unseen. Because birthmothers are exempt from the pills everyone else is required to take (which deaden emotion), Claire finds herself overwhelmed with a powerful new emotion: love. And she determines to find her son, regardless of the odds, the risk, or the sacrifice involved. At turns exciting, suspenseful, thought-provoking and poignant, this is a must-read. For fans of the first three books (The Giver, Gathering Blue and Messenger), there are highly satisfying appearances of characters from those works (including the surprising identity of Claire's son). If you have not read the others, this book easily stands on its own merit...and will easily tempt you to get hold of the first three, as quickly as possible.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—This final volume in the sequence of books that began with The Giver (Houghton Mifflin, 1993) returns for the first time to the regimented community of that book. Lowry recounts the events through the eyes of a new character, Claire, a Birthmother. When her first "Production" goes wrong, she endures a cesarean delivery and is summarily reassigned to the fish hatchery. But she can never let go of the idea of the son to whom she has given birth (Product #36) and manages to track him down in visits to the Nurturing Center. The baby turns out to be Gabe, the infant taken in by Jonas's family in The Giver. Claire meets Jonas's father and is able to maintain a tenuous relationship with her child. When Gabe is set to be "released" rather than permanently assigned to a family, things look dire indeed. Claire manages to escape the community on a supply boat headed "Elsewhere." Washed up on a beach after a storm, she has no memory of who she is or from whence she came. With the help of the villagers who have taken her in, she slowly regains some bits of her past and sets out to find her son. A harrowing encounter with the Trademaster leads her finally to Gabe, whom she finds in the village introduced in Messenger, along with Jonas, who is now appropriately the scholar/librarian of the community. Infinitely more satisfying than the previous installment, Son is a tender conclusion to this memorable story, and definitely the best of the books in this sequence since The Giver itself.—Tim Wadham, Children's Literature Consultant, Fenton, MO
In this long-awaited finale to the Giver Quartet, a young mother from a dystopian community searches for her son and sacrifices everything to find him living in a more humane society with characters from The Giver (1993), Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004). A designated Birthmother, 14-year-old Claire has no contact with her baby Gabe until she surreptitiously bonds with him in the community Nurturing Center. From detailed descriptions of the sterile, emotionally repressed community, it's clear Lowry has returned to the time and place of The Giver, and Claire is Jonas' contemporary. When Jonas flees with Gabe, Claire follows. She later surfaces with amnesia in a remote village beneath a cliff. After living for years with Alys, a childless healer, Claire's memory returns. Intent on finding Gabe, she single-mindedly scales the cliff, encounters the sinister Trademaster and exchanges her youth for his help in finding her child, now living in the same village as middle-aged Jonas and his wife Kira. Elderly and failing, Claire reveals her identity to Gabe, who must use his unique talent to save the village. Written with powerful, moving simplicity, Claire's story stands on its own, but as the final volume in this iconic quartet, it holistically reunites characters, reprises provocative socio-political themes, and offers a transcending message of tolerance and hope. Bravo! (Fiction. 12 & up)
Read an Excerpt
The young girl cringed when they buckled the eyeless leather mask around the upper half of her face and blinded her. It felt grotesque and unnecessary, but she didn’t object. It was the procedure. She knew that. One of the other Vessels had described it to her at lunch a month before.
"Mask?" she had asked in surprise, almost chuckling at the strange image. "What’s the mask for?"
"Well, it’s not really a mask," the young woman seated on her left corrected herself, and took another bite of the crisp salad. "It’s a blindfold, actually." She was whispering. They were not supposed to discuss this among themselves.
"Blindfold?" she had asked in astonishment, then laughed apologetically. "I don’t seem to be able to converse, do I? I keep repeating what you say. But: blindfold? Why?"
"They don’t want you to see the Product when it comes out of you. When you birth it." The girl pointed to her bulging belly.
"You’ve produced already, right?" she asked her.
The girl nodded. "Twice."
"What’s it like?" Even asking it, she knew it was a somewhat foolish question. They had had classes, seen diagrams, been given instructions. Still, none of that was the same as hearing it from someone who had already gone through the process. And now that they were already disobeying the restriction about discussing it—well, why not ask?
"Easier the second time. Didn’t hurt as much."
When she didn’t respond, the girl looked at her quizzically. "Hasn’t anyone told you it hurts?"
"They said ‘discomfort.’ "
The other girl gave a sarcastic snort. "Discomfort, then. If that’s what they want to call it. Not as much discomfort the second time. And it doesn’t take as long."
"Vessels? VESSELS!" The voice of the matron, through the speaker, was stern. "Monitor your conversations, please! You know the rules!"
The girl and her companion obediently fell silent then, realizing they had been heard through the microphones embedded in the walls of the dining room. Some of the other girls giggled. They were probably also guilty. There was so little else to talk about. The process—their job, their mission—was the thing they had in common. But the conversation shifted after the stern warning.
She had taken another spoonful of soup. Food in the Birthmothers’ Dormitory was always plentiful and delicious. The Vessels were all being meticulously nourished. Of course, growing up in the community, she had always been adequately fed. Food had been delivered to her family’s dwelling each day.
But when she had been selected Birthmother at twelve, the course of her life had changed. It had been gradual. The academic courses—math, science, law—at school became less demanding for her group. Fewer tests, less reading required. The teachers paid little attention to her.
Courses in nutrition and health had been added to her curriculum, and more time was spent on exercise in the outdoor air. Special vitamins had been added to her diet. Her body had been examined, tested, and prepared for her time here. After that year had passed, and part of another, she was deemed ready. She was instructed to leave her family dwelling and move to the Birthmothers’ Dormitory.
Relocating from one place to another within the community was not difficult. She owned nothing. Her clothing was distributed and laundered by the central clothing supply. Her schoolbooks were requisitioned by the school and would be used for another student the following year. The bicycle she had ridden to school throughout her earlier years was taken to be refurbished and given to a different, younger child.
There was a celebratory dinner her last evening in the dwelling. Her brother, older by six years, had already gone on to his own training in the Department of Law and Justice. They saw him only at public meetings; he had become a stranger. So the last dinner was just the three of them, she and the parental unit who had raised her. They reminisced a bit; they recalled some funny incidents from her early childhood (a time she had thrown her shoes into the bushes and come home from the Childcare Center barefoot). There was laughter, and she thanked them for the years of her upbringing.
"Were you embarrassed when I was selected for Birthmother?" she asked them. She had, herself, secretly hoped for something more prestigious. At her brother’s selection, when she had been just six, they had all been very proud. Law and Justice was reserved for those of especially keen intelligence. But she had not been a top student.
"No," her father said. "We trust the committee’s judgment. They knew what you would do best."
"And Birthmother is very important," Mother added. "Without Birthmothers, none of us would be here!"
Then they wished her well in the future. Their lives were changing too; parents no longer, they would move now into the place where Childless Adults lived.
The next day, she walked alone to the dormitory attached to the Birthing Unit and moved into the small bedroom she was assigned. From its window she could see the school she had attended, and the recreation field beyond. In the distance, there was a glimpse of the river that bordered the community.
Finally, several weeks later, after she was settled in and beginning to make friends among the other girls, she was called in for insemination.
Not knowing what to expect, she had been nervous. But when the procedure was complete, she felt relieved; it had been quick and painless.
"It that all?" she had asked in surprise, rising from the table when the technician gestured that she should.
"That’s all. Come back next week to be tested and certified."
She had laughed nervously. She wished they had explained everything more clearly in the instruction folder they had given her when she was selected. "What does ‘certified’ mean?" she asked.
The worker, putting away the insemination equipment, seemed a little rushed. There were probably others waiting. "Once they’re sure it implanted," he explained impatiently, "then you’re a certified Vessel.
"Anything else?" he asked her as he turned to leave. "No? You’re free to go, then."
That all seemed such a short time ago. Now here she was, nine months later, with the blindfold strapped around her eyes. The discomfort had started some hours before, intermittently; now it was nonstop. She breathed deeply as they had instructed. It was difficult, blinded like this; her skin was hot inside the mask. She tried to relax. To breathe in and out. To ignore the discom—No, she thought. It is pain. It really is pain. Gathering her strength for the job, she groaned slightly, arched her back, and gave herself up to the darkness.
Her name was Claire. She was fourteen years old.