Friday, August 8, 2014

"The Giver," The Godmother


I was on a recent business trip and wandered into the airport bookstore. Always dangerous. I can rarely keep my purchase contained to just one book, even when I'm traveling. This time I was able to squeeze out with one literary magazine, a terribly thick nonfiction book, and "The Giver" by Lois Lowry.

I picked up "The Giver" because it had the gold Newberry Medal Award sticker on its cover and a fascinating illustration of an old man (not to mention the bare tree limbs that also look like crackles of lightning that merge with the old man's scraggly beard). It wasn't until after I read the back cover that I noticed that next to these copies of the book was another grouping with the same title but a cover that had the two hot teens on it with the blurb "Now a major motion picture!" 

Being the book snob that I am, I almost put it back. I just don't like jumping into a book because it is already popular or because a movie is coming out. In fact, it almost ruins it for me. I like to find a book and love it all on its own long before someone tries to ruin it by making a movie of it (which I will inevitably get super excited to see, then afterward complain about all the details the screen version got wrong). And I never, if at all possible, buy a copy of a book that touts "now a major motion picture."

"The Giver" was a fairly thin novel, so when I settled into my flight I pulled it out first. What piqued my interest the most was that I knew absolutely nothing about it other than what the lovely jacket with the old man on it had hinted. I love going into books like that, don't you? When there are no expectations, no preconceived ideas, no pre-knowledge of plot lines.

As I got into it I saw that it was another dystopian YA book, but it was well done. Interesting. Held my attention. But the focus was a bit narrow and it ended somewhat abruptly and left me a little unfulfilled. I couldn't help but compare it to "Matched," "Hunger Games," and "Divergence." It had the same feel, but not quite the complexity of the others. 

On the other hand, it felt ... clean. Clean like contemporary furniture or modern architecture. The plot line was direct, not overly embellished, and structurally sound, with a beauty coming from the complexity of its spare but perfect balance.

"The Giver" felt like the grandmother, the genesis, of all the others. The forbearer.

When I got home I did some research on Lois Lowry and I found that she is indeed considered the godmother of this type of book. I also found out that she wrote three subsequent novels of a similar vein with different characters, and then a fourth that wove all of their stories together. But the most interesting point was that she wrote these four books not as a preconceived series, but as what I can only describe as sister-books, related but individual, between many other novels and publications over some 20 years.

This may all be old news to many of you, but it was a delicious revelation to me.

I'm glad I found "The Giver," in spite of the fact that I must give credit to the movie for bringing even this Newberry Award edition to my attention. Because without the film, the book wouldn't have been in the airport for me to find.

I'm eager now to pick up "The Giver"'s mates and, I must admit, I'm curious about the movie. 

But I'll be sure to read all the books before seeing the film, so that I have plenty to complain about at dinner afterward.
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Have you been moved by "The Giver"? Eager for or dreading the movie adaptation? 
OR
What book has recently surprised you?

1 comment:

Bruce Luck said...

Great book; read it 20 years ago. The ending left me wondering.