Son (Lowry)

Son  (The Giver Quartet, 4)
Lois Lowry, 2012
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780547887203

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—March 20, 1937
Where—Hawaii, USA
Education—B.A., M.F.A., University of Southern Maine
Awards—Newbery Medal (2)
Currently—lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Lois Lowry is an American author of children's literature. She began her career as a photographer and a freelance journalist during the early 1970s. Her work as a journalist drew the attention of Houghton Mifflin and they encouraged her to write her first children's book, A Summer to Die, which was published in 1977 (when Lowry was 40 years old). She has since written more than 30 books for children and published an autobiography. Two of her works have been awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal: Number the Stars in 1990, and The Giver in 1993.

As an author, Lowry is known for writing about difficult subject matters within her works for children. She has explored such complex issues as racism, terminal illness, murder, and the Holocaust among other challenging topics. She has also explored very controversial issues of questioning authority such as in The Giver quartet. Her writing on such matters has brought her both praise and criticism. In particular, her work The Giver has been met with a diversity of reactions from schools in America, some of which have adopted her book as a part of the mandatory curriculum, while others have prohibited the book's inclusion in classroom studies. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
A beautifully wrought political fable.... A consummate stylist, Lowry handles it all magnificently: the leaps in time, the shifts in perspective, the moments of extreme emotion—fear, joy, sadness—all conveyed in unadorned prose that seizes the heart.... This is the rare concluding volume that will send readers back to the first.
Mary Quattlebaum - Washington Post

Drawing characters and themes from The Giver and its companions, Gathering Blue and Messenger, Lowry concludes her Giver Quartet nearly 20 years after the Newbery Medal–winning first book was published. The story is divided into three sections, and in the completely absorbing opening, Lowry transports readers back to the horrifying world from which Jonas came. The spotlight is on 14-year-old Claire, a Birthmother who is given an emergency Caesarean to save “the Product.” The child survives, but Claire is coldly “decertified” and sent to work elsewhere, mystified as to what happened to her and her baby. Those familiar with The Giver will feel the pieces fall into place as Claire figures out which Product is hers and tracks his progress. Part two details Claire’s decade-long struggle to remember who she is, and it suffers slightly from having a main character afflicted with a well-worn plot device (amnesia); the final third reunites characters from all three previous novels for a showdown with evil incarnate. If the latter sections don’t quite keep up with the thrilling revelations of the first, Lowry still ties together these stories in a wholly satisfying way.
Publishers Weekly

Son is a tender conclusion to this memorable story, and definitely the best of the books in this sequence since The Giver itself.
School Library Journal

(Starred review.) Lowry is one of those rare writers who can craft stories as meaningful as they are enticing.

In this long-awaited finale to the Giver Quartet, a young mother from a dystopian community searches for her son and sacrifices everything to find him living in a more humane society with characters from The Giver (1993), Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004). A designated Birthmother, 14-year-old Claire has no contact with her baby Gabe until she surreptitiously bonds with him in the community Nurturing Center.... Intent on finding Gabe, she single-mindedly scales the cliff, encounters the sinister Trademaster and exchanges her youth for his help in finding her child.... Written with powerful, moving simplicity, Claire's story stands on its own, but as the final volume in this iconic quartet, it holistically reunites characters, reprises provocative socio-political themes, and offers a transcending message of tolerance and hope. Bravo!
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Define community. Compare and contrast each community in which Claire lives. How is she a mystery, or a foreigner, in all three communities?

2. Discuss how the rituals in the seaside community in “Book Two: Between." Define the culture of the people. How does Claire’s previous life resemble a science lab? What is the connection between science, culture, and the human experience? How does Jonas understand the human experience? Explain how Claire’s “Between” years help her make the transition to “Beyond."

3. Claire is inexperienced with feelings. Why is she soconfused when she begins to have a “yearning” for herproduct? How does this feeling frighten her? Discuss how the emotion of love overtakes the emotion offear. Explain how Claire’s “yearning” sets her free.

4. Discuss Claire’s reaction when she learns that she is a failure as a Birthmother. Debate whether she thinks she has failed herself or her community. Discuss whether her product’s failure to thrive contributes to additional feelings of failure. How does her failure as a Birthmother cause her shame in the seaside community? Why is she considered “stained”? How does her failure as a “vessel” allow her to become amother?

5. Secrets and lying are prohibited in the community. How do Claire’s secret feelings cause her great pain? Debate whether Claire is guilty of lying or simply creating excuses to wander from the Fish Hatchery to the Nurturing Center. The man who is caring for Thirty-six is also harboring a secret. What would happen if the Chief Elder of the community discovered that he had named the product, now a new child? What is symbolic about the new child’s name?

6. What does the nurturer see in Thirty-six that others can’t see? Explain Gabe’s gift. Jonas gave Gabe life by taking him to Elsewhere. Debate the possibility that Jonas saw something “special” in the infant Gabe. What does he give him at the end of Son?

7. In “Book One: Before,” Claire says that she is lonely, though she really doesn’t understand the meaning of the word. How does she confront her feelings of loneliness as she makes her journey to “Between” and“Beyond”? Which other characters suffer from a similar loneliness? Debate whether Gabe is lonely or simply needs to understand his history.

8. In “Book Two: Between,” Alys realizes that Claire is deeply wounded. How does she help Claire come to terms with “Before”? Why does Claire decide to tell Bryn her story? How does Claire know that Lame Einar won’t be scornful of her past?

9. Discuss what Lame Einar means when he tells Claire, “It be better, I think, to climb out in search of something, instead of hating what you’re leaving.” (p.209) How is love stronger than hate? Discuss how Alys understands a mother’s love, even though she is not a mother herself.

10. Explain the statement, “Fear dims when you learnthings.” (p. 162) Debate whether Claire’s fear intenseifies or lessens as she continues her plight to and her son. What does she learn in “Book Two: Between” that dims her fears? Which characters in the seaside village help her gain knowledge?

11. Power may corrupt, but it can heal. How does Trademaster use his power to corrupt? Jonas needs for Gabe to understand the difference between a unique power and a gift. Why does Jonas feel that having a gift is burdensome? Discuss why Gabe is uncomfortable with his special gift. He uses his gift of veering to destroy evil. Debate whether he will ever use his gift again.
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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