Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lots to catch up on... but first a good book

We just back last weekend from a week's vacation in Maine.  We had a great time!  My husband and I are learning how to take vacations as a family--coping with expectations, stress, planning, the unexpected, and still relaxing.  It was a long drive for us, which gave me plenty of time to read several books.

The first one I picked up was Son by Lois Lowry.  I had picked it up for a moment while we were packing and read a few pages before we left.  It was hard to put it down, but I had to.  Packing had to be done first. So, I was glad to get into the car and start riding.

Son is the conclusion to Lois Lowry's The Giver.  There are two other books that are a part of this series The Messenger and Gathering Blue.  The Giver was first published in 1993 and the other two were published in 2000 and 2004.  It was a fun surprise to find out that she'd written a conclusion.

The book is divided into three shorter stories which link together. The first story begins with the character of Claire, a young 14 year old girl who was chosen to be a birthmother in the dystopic world of the giver.    It tells her story and what happens to her.  The world of the giver comes quickly back to life.  I don't want to explain a lot of the plot, because that was what made The Giver and the other two books special for me--the surprising twists and turns of the stories.

What I'd rather discuss is the writing and the world view of the author.  I've read a lot of books over the last few years.  When I read The Birthday Ball a few years ago, I was reminded of what a good writer Ms. Lowry is.  She is adept at including needed details, but not unnecessary ones that distract from the story.  I have noticed that this is a particularly difficult part of writing fiction for children and teens.  Her details paint a picture that helps the reader easily imagine what is happening.  The story does move a little slow in the middle of the book, but it picks back up in the third story.  I found myself skipping short sections through the slow part and coming back to read them later.  The ending doesn't feel contrived to me in light of the bigger picture of the giver's world.  Several reviews I read on Amazon criticized Ms. Lowry's ending.  It does seem to come to a quick ending and this is the one part of the story where I would have liked a few more details in this section, but that weakness is easy for me to forgive in light of the creativity of the whole story.  I could fill in the details in my own mind.

The second part of this book is the one that I want to make Christian homeschooling parents aware of.  In Honey for a Teen's Heart, Gladys Hunt explains the different world views that many authors write from.  She identifies Lowry as one of the authors that writes from an existentialist world view in which reality "is subjective and objective.  The world merely is.  There is no God.  Human beings define themselves and are totally free and determine their own destiny." (pg. 83)  In the Giver series, this view comes through.  But, I don't think we should steer entirely clear of it.  Here's why.  Recently, I was talking with a friend.  Her son just graduated from college.  She asked him what he wished she had taught him.  He replied that he wished she had taught him about evolution.  The survival of the fittest is blatantly explained in the first story of this book.  Read this and discuss it--discuss why it is false.  Explain to your children the Truth.  One of my friends uses a Christian science curriculum and then subscribes to National Geographic.  Her family discusses National Geograhic's articles, evolution, and creation.  We need to help our children understand and equip them so that they will be able to understand discussions in their classes when they move beyond our classrooms at home.

Does such a world view make this book a "bad" choice to read?  No.  Actually, I think this is a particularly good one to read and good fodder for discussion.  Discuss who is in charge of the world in this book?  What does man believe about his own nature?  Where does he look to for strength?  What do you think of the trademaster and the ending?  Have you ever felt in your own heart a sick pleasure at the "come uppance" of another or have you ever met someone that you knew felt this way?  Can you think of a movie where you've seen any of the characters feel this way?  What does God tell us about the nature of man?  What do you believe about man's nature?  Where does our strength come from?  Like Claire who didn't realize what she had, what do you possess that you might not have considered before?  This book is full of moral questions that are worthy of consideration.  This book is well written and interesting to read.  Sonlight's philosophy about what books they choose goes along these lines.  If you're interested in reading it, you can find it here.

The other reason I would encourage homeschoolers to read this book is that God's beauty is reflected in all of creation.  We just have to look for it.  I see it in this author's gifted ability to write.  She has a gift.  She may not attribute it to God, but I do.

So those are my thoughts.  They may surprise some.  But, my husband and I are realizing more and more that avoiding the world won't equip our children to live in it.  I enjoyed reading Son and if you get a chance to sit down with it, I hope you will too.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  It is set to be released in October.  

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