Friday, November 07, 2014

Book Review: Son

I don't know what I can say about Lois Lowry, about the book Son, the conclusion to her Giver series, or about all four books in general that haven't already been said by people way more articulate than I. But I'll start with this, I love them. And I love Lois Lowry with the kind of love that I usually reserve for highly revered members of my family. But like family members I love, she can sometimes do things that fluster and frustrate me.

The Giver movie adaptation was one of those things. I have not seen The Giver yet, but the trailer was enough to put me off the enterprise. I just got the feeling that the heart of the whole book was missing. My feeling has always been that in order to bring the book to the screen, the format should be much shorter/sparser like the book was, but that's neither here nor there. While I applaud the effort, I feel like there were several missteps there.

So I read Son with a lot of ambivalence still floating in my system. I wasn't sure if I could trust the journey. Well I'm happy to report that the journey I was taken on was an extremely great ride. I loved this book so much, probably because initially it revisited the world The Giver had taken place in at the very beginning. The way this book intertwined with The Giver and had been so effortlessly meshed with that first story was no easy feat but Lowry handled it with ease.

But this story, like those that came after The Giver is about showing all the fractures in the cultures that exist outside the seemingly Utopian society of The Giver. Where the book really got going is when the main character left that world. The main character, or at least the main character for the first two-thirds of the book is the mother of the baby that was introduced in the first book, Gabe, the baby with the swirling blue eyes.

The story starts with the birth of the child and the mother's grappling with the birth and her inability to keep the baby she gave birth to. At first she just tries to find ways to visit and be with the child but as the events of The Giver unfurl within her life, she finds it more and more difficult to be with the child.When the child is taken, the bottom falls out, both literally and figuratively. She seeks refuge on a boat she hopes will help her find her son but then it sinks and so does her memory of where she was before and of her son, but that was the one thing that wouldn't stay buried.  A tiny enclosed village takes her in where she starts reclaiming her memories and herself.

Where the story really gets going is when she makes the decision to seek out her son by climbing a treacherous cliff that has separated the village from the rest of the fractured societies existing in the world. Those chapters filled me with a sense of wonder and dread and anticipation for what happened next.

The part of the book that lost me was the last third where most of narration and focus is on Gabe, her lost son. A big portion of the wind let out of the sails around that point mostly because it focused on a character who didn't know what we already knew and didn't grab and keep my attention as well as the first two sections had.

Also, *spoiler alert* the ending felt like a cheat or hurried or both. It was interesting that a character introduced in the third book would be brought back and was used in interesting ways, but the pay off didn't quite work because I don't think it was quite earned.

Also, and this just may be me talking, but can she please give me a map so I have a handy lay out for all these different societies that sprouted up after the apocalypse? There was Jonas's Seemingly Utopean society that the first book made me believe stretched over a huge stretch of land. Then there was Kira's society and a third society Jonas was the leader of that the third book focused on. In this book, I felt like two more had been added to that list, a land with seafaring people with whom Jonas's society did a bit of trade and commerce with and the other being the village that was cut off by both sea and cliff. I needed a reference for just how this land was laid out and how far spread apart or close everyone may have been.

But overall it's a great capper to the series that started with The Giver. Not my favorite in the series, not by a long shot but still worthy of your time and a read. It's a solid B.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Runnin' For Rhett's Run Because You Can

"How much are you charging for a full mask?"
"Nothing for this event."
"Really?" I ask. I've been charged everything from 3 to 15 bucks for all manner of face-painting styles. She was currently giving my daughter the full-on Frozen treatment, with an array of snowflakes dotting her forehead and cheeks.
"I never charge when I do the Run Because You Can Event. The family lost their son and he's a beautiful angel and I want to honor that, so I don't charge."
"You know the reason we come here every year is because I lost my son too and their story reminds me so much of my own."
"Bless you sweetheart."

I tipped her five bucks once she finished with my daughter's face.

That was my moment from this year's event.  Usually the event is filled with so many more of them for me. Unfortunately, an injury had me side-lined this year so I didn't run it. I kept my eye out for the kid in the stroke-survivor shirt, but I didn't see him. I missed the bagpipe player because he was out on the course and not at the park. And even though I tweeted that I wanted to meet Randy Seevers and I hoped I'd get to, I didn't.

What I did get was a chance to express, however briefly, what Rhett Seevers and his story meant to me to someone there. And it really means so much. As bereaved parents, its hard for us to find a place to put our energy and emotions that had pretty much been given fully to the children we cared about. But the Seevers created this race and their foundation to have a place to put all of that, as a way to remember Rhett and all the gifts he gave them and so my family and I make the hour and a half trek every year to remember Rhett and to remember our own son and to honor the journey he took us and is still taking us on.

One of these days I will meet the Seevers and I'll shake their hands and tell them how important this all is to me.  But right now I'll work on getting injury free and getting race ready for next year so I can hear the bagpipes play and brighten up my day. To the organizers of the event, thanks for a great day and all the great days your race provides.