“Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with difference. We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.”
This book reminds me of a short story I read in college called Ones who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula LeGuin. In the story there is a girl kept in a closet or small basement that basically is kept in pain, neglected and left in squalor so the rest of the society can be perfect. This has sort of the same premise that one person carries all of the true memories of happiness, pain, suffering, love and every other emotion you can think of so that the society can be oblivious to how empty their lives are but think they are happy.
This is a deep thinking book about society and choices. Is it better to give up everything that makes people unique so that everyone is equal and everyone is treated the same or should people be given the memories of joy and pain to be able to choose for themselves. No one in the community knows what true pain or happiness is. They have worked it out in the community so that no one even sees color, everyone gets exactly the same provisions, kids get the same clothing, and everyone becomes a 2 or 7 or 12 at the same time during a ceremony no matter when they are born. The Giver is the only person in all of the community that has any true memories and he carries the burden for everyone. Jonas becomes his apprentice as he is chosen to be the Receiver of all memories.
“And here in this room, I re-experience the memories again and again it is how wisdom comes and how we shape our future.”
While it doesn’t go into the workings of how you can filter all true memories to one person, or make all the land look the same, or weed out the ability to see color it is an interesting concept. I can see how this would be a great discussion book in a philosophy class or sociology. It is all an interesting concept. What happens when you truly know what emotions are, should you keep them all to yourself and be the chosen one to carry the burden for everyone else or should you walk away.
Parts of the story are a little slow for a MG/YA book but the World Building was interesting and everything in the book makes you call into question how there society is working and should it continue on the same path or is Jonas powerful enough to bring change to the community.
This book is not for everyone but it has a powerful message and would be great for a book club discussion group. Definitely not a light read.