We had book club last weekend at Jen’s house to discuss The Giver. First, let me discuss the food. We decided to meet earlier than usual so Jen went with a breakfast theme. We had poached eggs (my first time ever, is that weird?), fruit salad, tossed salad, veggies, different breads, goat cheese, crackers…it was all yummy. I had made some strawberry cheesecake bars with my bad habit of testing recipes on people. They were okay, but I’m not ready to share the recipe because I know with a few tweaks they can be great! Anyway, on to the book…
We read the 1994 Newbery Award winner The Giver by Lois Lowry. The author ended up writing additional books in the same “world” and some of us read the other three books and some didn’t. I did not, but plan to. This (and the others) is not a very long book and actually quite a quick read. According to the teachers in our group, this book is often assigned to 5th and 6th graders, although some of the deeper themes and undertones are surely over most of their heads. They are still able to get a lot out of the story without understanding that some of the ideas are very adult.
Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
I really enjoyed this book, although it was quite depressing at times. I believe a lot of kids wouldn’t find it depressing because they are not jaded yet. All in all, everyone in book club seemed to enjoy the read. The people who didn’t continue reading the series either didn’t realize it was a series or didn’t have time. All plan on continuing when they get a chance.
I brought up that I had read quite a few pieces that have slammed (for lack of a better word) this book because they feel Lois Lowry’s personal religious feelings are so strongly present. Well, I didn’t even realize the author was deeply religious until after I read the book and read other reviews. I wondered what the rest of the group thought. There was a general consensus that the book didn’t seem religious in any way. Jen posited that none of us are deeply religious so we weren’t “looking for the clues”, so to speak. She said, having grown up in a more religious background, that she finds many stringent religious groups look for clues in things (books, tv, movies, etc.) to determine if they are being either religious or anti-religious and often don’t even realize they’re doing it. I could see her point and figure that may be possible because I just didn’t see it at all.
My edition of the book had an introduction written by Lowry 20 years after it was written. In that introduction she says, “A woman told me that Jesus would be ashamed of me, for writing such a book. An Episcopal priest gave copies of it to his vestry members for Christmas.” I think this shows perfectly that the reader gets out of a book what they want or believe.
What Lowry did with this story is something that I believe is hard to do on purpose. And from all I’ve read about her it wasn’t done exactly on purpose. She’s written a book that can have so many multiple meanings but in the end they all mean the same thing. After reading this story it is so obvious how important it is for us all to have our own opinions and thoughts and feelings. Yet, ultimately, we are all living in the same reality. It’s a wonderful thing that we can look at it with different eyes.
I strongly urge you, no matter your age, to go pick this book up. You will truly start to appreciate things you have previously taken for granted. And, since I decided not to include any spoilers in this post, I would love to hear your interpretation of the ending in the comments. We had many different thoughts at book club. Another reason we loved the book.
By the way, they made this into a movie that will be coming out this August. Honestly, from the preview I’ve seen, I’m more scared about this adaptation that I have been about a book to movie adaptation in a long time. I really hope they don’t ruin it! The only thing keeping me hopeful is the stellar cast (Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes).
Next book club will be May 17th and we’re reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I hope you (virtually) join us, I’ll be posting a recap within the week after.
(here’s a link to my review of The Giver)