Son by Lois Lowry (2012)
Suggested age range: 12 and up
Jonas. Gabe. Kira. Claire. Do these names ring a bell?
If you read The Giver, as well as the companion books in the series, Gathering Blue and The Messenger, you were most likely greatly anticipating the conclusion to the dystopian quartet, Son, which was published this previous fall.
Having just finished the amazing novel, I can say I am both sad the story is over, and completely satisfied with the way Lowry tied up the series. Son is a rich, moving, and absolutely wonderful read, and it’s a story whose echoes will remain with you for some time afterwards.
I woke up this morning still thinking about the closing scene of the book. If you have not read the book, be aware there are some partial spoilers in this review. I do have to say that this reading involved quite a bit of page turning, tears, laughter, and times of reflection. These are ingredients for the best kind of books.
Book I, “Before,” focuses on 14 year old Claire’s story in the community, right as she is about to give birth to her first baby. A complication occurs, and she is assigned a new role in the community—her time as “birthmother” comes to an abrupt end. However, she is struck by the sense of loss she feels. She discovers her son is in the nurturing center and sets out to find him. Will Claire reunite with her son in spite of the strict rules of the community?
Book II, “Between,” centers on Claire’s arrival to a new community after she is rescued from the sea by the inhabitants of a coastal settlement. In this community, she slowly grows accustomed to living in a society that is not controlled like her previous one, and forms significant relationships with the people there. These connections are vital for the next stage of Claire’s journey, a journey that will not be complete until she finds her son.
What I particularly like about the second part of the novel is the way it illuminates Claire as a strong character who refuses to give up, but it also highlights her dependence on those in her new community. Lowry doesn’t give us a strong female character in juxtaposition with weaker male characters, but she highlights the power in men and women working together and connecting at a deep level—as seen through the relationship between Claire and Einar.
Book III, “Beyond,” picks back up with characters from The Giver, and centers around the meeting of Claire’s story with the story of those from the first novel in the series. Son doesn’t just pick up where The Giver ended. It picks up before The Giver begins and continues after it ends.
The structure of Lowry’s series deserves some thinking. I found that her organization reflects the way life is not a straightforward series either. Your story and my story are not neatly shelved in their own books—one picking up where the other ends. Mine starts in the middle of yours and yours seems to end at the end of mine, but actually returns in someone else’s story, where another story enters, and my own returns. The weaving together of the various strands of our life stories reveals a pulling together at different times and in different places. This is a significant spiritual aspect that emerges in the quartet, but one might not think about it until after reflection about the way Lowry organized the books.
Lowry’s Son will not disappoint, and it is the kind of novel one will want to read again—most likely after a rereading of the other three books in the series. Son engages with strong elements of hope, compassion for others, and the importance of relationships. Socio-political themes are explored within the frame of a fantasy, which also boasts fairy tale references, though subtly.
My favorite scene in the novel is the concluding one—a profound picture revealing the hints of a wonderful reunion, given to the reader as the sun rises in the story, assuring us it is a new and beautiful day.