My sister invited me to hear Lois Lowry speak. I had never heard of her; which apparently is shocking to most people I’ve said that to. She is a prolific author who has written award-winning books that are read by high-schoolers across the country; just not me apparently. So in preparation for hearing her speak, I did what any right-minded English major would do, I got The Giver out of the library to read.
With only two weeks left in my final grad class, I told myself I wouldn’t start it till after my last class. That resolution lasted almost six days. It was a Thursday. I was watching a friend’s eight-month-old; not really a good day to start a new book. Recently I’ve been reading short stories because I can finish them during nap time and not have the next chapter looming in my head until the next moment I can snatch away. Starting a book while caring for one very active toddler and a nearly crawling infant was not a good idea. But it worked. The girls were playing and I was sitting on the floor reading. A book-worm, mom’s nirvana.
I snatched moments throughout the day and read the last pages well before bedtime (mine, not the toddler’s). My appetite for novels had become voracious after only reading short stories. I am hungry for more.
I enjoyed reading a novel, but did I enjoy the novel. A story like The Giver is supposed to be unnerving. As Jonas learns the truth of his society, the reader is uncomfortable along with him. The themes reminded me of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and the film Cloud Atlas (well, one of the multiple plot lines at least). They are uncomfortable themes: cloning, genetic manipulation, and controlled society.
The society in The Giver has eradicated pain, sorrow, and unexpected death. They also eradicated the positive emotions like pleasure, joy and love. Without feeling pain, we cannot know true pleasure. Without knowing sadness, we cannot know true joy. Without the depth of loss, we cannot feel the depth of love.
These themes cause me to wonder what sort of future my children will live in. What will the world be like for them? I have heard people say they will not have children because of this worry. The future is too uncertain, too fraught with potential atrocities. But I don’t agree. Because I remember a part of the past that these stories left out; the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am birthing children into a world He died for. My children will inherit a world that has been bought with the blood of Jesus. A world where death has been defeated and the Prince of Peace will reign forever. I do not see the fulfillment of that now. They may not see it in their lifetime. But it will happen. There is hope.
In this world you will have trouble, but take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33