With all the dystopian booklists popping up during the Covid-19 epidemic, I’m astounded not to see The Giver on more lists. Isn’t it the ultimate dystopia?
Authors, read this book if you want an example of an exquisitely developed alternate universe. Anytime I read a dystopian novel, it gets compared to this story. I ask, “How fully did I feel the world actually existed? How strong are my reactions to this new reality?” I first heard this story when I was about eleven years old. To this day, I can still picture Jonas’ world exactly the same as I did the first time. I see black and white. I see bicycles. I see the Nurturing Center, the Elders, the Ceremony. If you’re building a universe based on our reality, I suggest starting here.
Readers, read this book if you want to escape from our world for a little while, but not into an anxiety-ridden experience. During this pandemic, many people are saying they can’t focus, can’t read. This is a short, simple, easy book that will pull you away from our reality into another.
What I want to tell people about this book is if you like dystopian novels but don’t want the savageness of Lord of the Flies or the harshness of 1984 or the bizarreness of Brave New World, this is a perfect fit, a gentle book.
This book weaves through time and history, and as a reader, I wanted certain connections to happen, but they never did. While it was frustrating, I also constantly reminded myself that most of the connections that happen in many stories are a type of wish fulfillment; this story never lets you forget that it isn’t really how life is.
What drove me nuts, you ask? The characters were aware of their family history to a certain extent, but I wanted them to be looking for their roots. It was such a strong desire that I had to put the book down from time to time and ask myself why it was so important to me that a person be interested in knowing where they come from. I haven’t been able to answer that yet.
Once I finished, I was left with so many questions. How can people search for their roots if they were torn from them? How many connections in life are really coincidence? How much history have we lost?
The world has yet to own up to its role in the destruction of Africa’s families and the effects that has on its descendants to this day. Somewhere in my past, my ancestors must have played some part, yet those are not the stories that get passed down. It’s part of the lost history.
What I want to tell others about this book is that I’m overwhelmingly grateful to Gyasi for opening my eyes to something I know little about. I originally thought the message from the book was “That’s life.” On further contemplation I’ve realized it’s actually, “That’s people.” My world feels a little darker right now.
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.
Occasionally I give editing tips and share insights from the world of publishing.
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