“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.”
Warning: The marketing for Son has been deliberately vague. While I would not normally qualify this review as spoilery, I am going to be clearer about the subject of the book than most of the publicity for this title that you may have encountered. Proceed at your own risk.
In the conclusion to The Giver Quartet, Lois Lowry returns to the Community in which Jonas was born and selected to be the Receiver of Memory. While Jonas was selected for one of the highest roles in the Community, Son tells the story of Claire, a girl only a few years older than Jonas, whose assignment is one described by Jonas’ mother in The Giver as “without honour.” Claire is selected to be a Birthmother or Vessel, and gives birth to her first “Product” at the age of fourteen. The birth goes wrong in more ways than one. Claire experiences the forbidden emotion of love for her child, and when her son is lost to her and the Community, she sets out for Elsewhere to find him. But like the birth, her escape does not go as planned, and little does Claire know how much she will have to give up for love of her child, and how long it will take her to find him.
Son is, perhaps, closer to being the sequel to The Giver that many people were hoping for and expecting when Lowry released Gathering Blue in 2000. Son finally ties the preceding stories together, and answers many questions that were left hanging at the end of The Giver and Messenger, although the fate of the Community after Jonas’ departure remains sadly unexplored, as Claire leaves very shortly after him. Instead, we follow the struggles of Claire as she searches for her son, and discover her additional unexpected connection to the village in which Jonas and Gabe have made their new life.
While love and choice serve as unifying themes for the novel, the cumulative parts are somewhat disparate. The book is divided into three sections, beginning in the Community, moving to Elsewhere, and concluding in the Village. The first section flawlessly recreates the dystopian vision of The Giver, while the final part brings together the best fantasy elements of the series. However, the middle section, in which Claire is stranded in a small seaside community, struggling to recover her memory, is slowly paced. Claire grows from a girl into a woman, comes to understand what love means in the world outside the community, and undertakes the preparations to continue her search for her son. Overall, however, Lowry continues to demonstrate her ability to beautifully explore complex topics in language accessible to middle grade readers and moving for her adult fans. Indeed, many of her readers will have begun as the former, and are now among the latter.
While none of the succeeding novels have been the equal of the story that began it all, Son brings the quartet to strong conclusion. As the mother of the modern dystopian young adult genre, Lowry has left a significant legacy.