Lois Lowry’s book The Giver was one of the first dystopias that I read as a young person. I still remember being entranced by it, and loving the strange sense of being both attracted to and disturbed by this strange new world — a sense that I’ve come to associate with good dystopian worlds over time. I’ve re-read both The Giver and its sequels several times over the years, so I was excited to find this fourth and final installment of the series.
This is the story of Claire, a young woman in her teens, who lives in the dystopic community we encountered in The Giver. As the story unfolds, we find that she is the birthmother of Gabriel, the young child that Jonas rescues at the end of the first book of the quartet. Themes of the love and longing of motherhood are portrayed beautifully and powerfully in this book. Ms. Lowry draws us into her world, a world that mingles reality and fantasy in subtle ways, and makes us look at our own world in a new light.
Lois Lowry has a true gift for writing books for young people that explore profound and difficult themes in effective ways. I loved The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger when I read them as a young person. I still love them as an adult. This last book of the quartet struck me in a particularly vivid way, since I was reading it as a young mother myself. But I wonder if I would have connected with it as well as a younger reader.
Each of the three sections of this book – Before, Between, and Beyond – struck me as curiously distinct in tone and emphasis. By the end, though, the three sections – and the characters of the four books in the series – come together for a lovely and satisfying ending. It’s a more neatly wrapped conclusion than what I’ve come to expect from the other books of the series, but I found myself enjoying the finality and closure that it gave to the stories of the characters I’ve come to love.