Book review: Son by Lois Lowry

SonLike many others who read Lois Lowry’s books as children in the 90s, I was strongly affected by The Giver when I read it in the 6th grade.  It remains my favorite dystopian book.

I was understandably excited when the companions Gathering Blue and Messenger came out.  But these books failed to live up to The Giver‘s simple yet haunting themes (not to mention that Messenger ruined the wonderful ambiguity of the first book’s ending…but I always thought Jonas and Gabe lived anyway).

Son nearly rises to the level of The Giver, but falters in the end.  The first third of the book follows Claire, a new Birthmother in Jonas’s Community.  After complications during her first “production,” she is reassigned to the fish hatchery, yet she can’t stop thinking about her son.  When she learns he has gone Elsewhere, she sets off to find him really without even thinking.

She ends up stranded and amnesic in a little fishing village, where she spends the second third of the book regaining her memories and growing stronger in body and mind–strength she will need to leave the village and continue her journey to find her son.

And find him she does–but at what price?  The last third of the book switches to her son’s perspective; he has grown up in Matty’s village of immigrants, longing to know his real parents.  Will the evil that’s left in the world be enough to keep them apart?

The first two thirds of Son are wonderful.  It was great to go back to the Community, and see it fleshed out a little more.  I was disappointed that we still don’t know what happened to the Community after Jonas’s departure, how they coped, or changed, or if they fell apart.  The fishing village was full of great characters that I enjoyed spending time with.  I also liked Claire as a character and a protagonist; I could understand her feelings and see her growth throughout these sections.  It was so refreshing to read a dystopian novel that doesn’t involve a love triangle!

The last third was not as satisfying.  I did not like the narrator switch; we never get a good hold on the personality of Claire’s son, and he comes across as flat.  Similarly, our villain is merely evil personified and has no motive or personality, simply interesting powers.  I did like the way the book closed, because it was simple and open-ended, recalling the ending of The Giver that I love so much.

Son is much longer than The Giver, and I’m not sure that works to its advantage.  I did really like the tie-ins to the other three novels, and I think it concluded the quartet well both logistically and thematically.  Like Jonas, Kira, and Matty, Claire shows us that human emotions (particularly love) are our strength, not our weakness.

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