In this unspecified empire (neither the USA nor the UK, where no
president or monarch is referenced, nor any monetary system is mentioned since there is no need for it) Jonas is about to turn Twelve with his Age Group. But on this official Naming Day he is forced to wait until the very end of the ritualized ceremony–with formal apologies for the ensuing emotional inconvenience and inner turmoil of confusion. He is stunned to learn that he has been selected by the Council of Elders to become the apprentice of the Giver.
Highly revered but isolated from daily human interpersonal relations the Giver is the Receiver and Keeper of Public Memories–a kind of social archivist for the Community. The only man who knows the truth about their flawed history and brutality: war, poverty, disease, crime and most of all–Pain–all of which have been eradicated from this seemingly perfect society. For the Community is sheltered and Protected from all stressful knowledge of its own violent past–where people repeatedly made the wrong choices. It is decreed that only the Giver may–indeed Must–retain these terrible memories: to advise the Elders when consulted.
Here in his safe, sterile utopian world Jonas never had to make any decisions; he did not get to choose his life work, nor even would he mature to select his life partner. In fact, as the future Giver, he is instantly treated with utmost respect by everyone– even adults; best of all he is free to lie–even to his own family. But will the freedom to learn all suppressed knowledge affect his satisfaction with his reprogrammed existence? The quality of visual Sameness is valued in this community, where color has almost been eradicated. Thus his green ayes make him an object of curiosity–and a potential candidate for this exalted position. Ah, but what happened to his young, green-eyed female predecessor?
Will Jonas prove just another complacent cog in the wheel of revisionist
Anthropology? Must he endure the pain of past generations–just to spare the masses of the present both physical and mental anguish?
Jonas come of age in a rush as he experiences the agony of all mankind and realizes that his own father has lied to the family about his role in Nursery. He now knows that the aged are “Released”–not to a lovely peaceful place–but actually receive lethal injections and are shunted out through tubes to ignominious burial. It’s all a sham–a lie!
Unusually compassionate by nature Jonas fears that Gabriel, a toddler who is not responding to extra home nurturing, will also be Released. Determined to save the rejected child AND himself from a life of mental torture the youth defies convention and decides to escape this stagnant empire by bicycle. It’s a race against the search planes as he struggles to reach the outpost, where real people still live in a world with color. Hands down, one of the best YA novels I have ever read, THE GIVER is for “adults” of all ages!
NB: The grim old man depicted on the cover is presumably the aged Giver, who instructs young Jonas in his crippling lifestyle. Lois Lowry took this photograph herself when visiting Sweden. The only loose end she admitted to was not having explained how the Birth Mothers conceived; most likely by in vitro–since sex was taboo and sexual urgies were suppressed by daily pills.