Review posted July 13, 2013.
Listening Library, 2012. 8 hours on 7 compact discs.
Son is "the conclusion to the Giver quartet." I read The Giver and Gathering Blue many years ago, and read and reviewed Messenger in 2004. It's possible I would have enjoyed this book more if I remembered what was in the predecessors.
The book starts out in the same community as The Giver. Claire is a birth mother, a Vessel. But something goes wrong when she is delivering the "Product." The "discomfort" gets extreme (That detail made me laugh -- doctors in our society also have the gall to call labor pains "discomfort".), and Claire ends up with a scar and is given a new role to play at the Fish Hatchery.
But Claire found out her child's number. A subsequent trip to the Nursery means she can innocently find out her son's identity. She can get to know him, in the guise of helping the Caregivers. But when Jonas flees from the community and takes her son with him, that means Claire must leave, too.
I didn't really remember details from The Giver or Gathering Blue. What I've described so far was Part One, and it had tiny little details I could quibble with, but mostly I was enjoying the story. Then, suddenly, at the end of Part Three, the book turns from a plausible Science Fiction title into pure Fantasy. I didn't buy the story from there on out -- the big obstacle felt completely artificial. It's possible I wouldn't have been so taken aback if I had read Gossamer, because it sounds like some of the roots of Claire's encounter were laid in that book.
However, despite having many arguments with the story, the fact is, I was mesmerized. There was nothing flashy about the reader's voice (no cute accents, just plain reading), but I couldn't stop listening and eagerly looked forward to my morning and evening commute as long as I was listening to this book.
I may not buy the story, and it may not be the hard-hitting dystopian commentary on our society I expected from a sequel to The Giver -- but Lois Lowry's command of language had me mesmerized, all the same.
If you've never read The Giver, you should. It's a modern classic. And then if you want more, I think the best approach would probably be to read all three of Lois Lowry's books that follow. Some day, I plan to read all four, in order. I'm sure I will enjoy them. Lois Lowry knows how to spin a tale.