Why can’t every weekend be as reading productive as this weekend? Final thoughts on The Giver and The Road Home (by Jill)

the giver coverThe Road Home cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finished two whole books this weekend! I never do that. I’m not sure if it was these books in particular that pushed me on, or my desire to have some stuff to write about for the next few days, or just the plain fact that I had no actual plans to leave my house this past weekend, so I got to get some serious reading done. Whatever the reason, I’m glad that I did because I feel really accomplished.

I suspect I won’t have enough to say about either The Giver or The Road Home to write two posts of any length. Also I couldn’t make up my mind which one to write about now and which one to write about on Tuesday. I will start with The Giver, because that’s the one I finished first. The major thought I’m left with after finishing The Giver is that I can’t believe a young adult novel would have an ending as open-ended as this one. And as a codicil to that thought, I know for certain that if I had read this book when it first came out in 1993 I would have been so mad about the ending that I would probably never read any of its sequels. Or maybe I would. But I’d be mad about it. Open-ended endings still irritate me a little, but nowhere near as much as they did when I was a teenager/kid. Given the fact that there are now three sequels to this book, and given the fact that I know that one of them deals directly with at least one of the characters from The Giver, I am less annoyed, but the first sequel to The Giver didn’t come out until seven years after its predecessor, and that’s forever in teenager years. Overall, I really did enjoy The Giver, for all the reasons I mentioned in my progress report. Well-written, good plot, interesting characters, etc. Watching Tobias grow and become aware of the more complicated aspects of life in his “community” was heartbreaking and beautiful. We all have those moments in which we realize things are not as they seemed when we were young. Our parents (and all other grownups) are not infallible; they don’t know everything, nor do they always make the right decisions. I don’t want to do too much plot summary because I don’t want to give too much away. It was weird reading it on the Kindle because I really have no idea how long it was, but it seemed short. That’s something that I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to about e-readers. Not knowing how long a book is based on thickness and weight. I’m looking forward to reading the follow-ups to The Giver, and seeing how things work out for this bizarre world in which no one sees colors and everything has a rule and an appropriate time/age for everything. I definitely recommend this book for people who enjoyed all of our modern dystopian young adult series, and for people looking for a quick read that has some depth to it.

Which brings me to The Road Home. I wish I could say that this book is the more uplifting of the two, but it kind of isn’t. The good news is that it has a beginning, middle, and ending, for people who are into that sort of thing, and the ending isn’t ambiguous, for the teenager in all of us who likes to have all plot-points resolved. Okay, I admit, there are a few plot-points that remain unresolved, but they aren’t super important ones. So the last time I updated, Lev was still homeless with no job. He finds a job, with the help of his friend Lydia, at a trendy restaurant called GK Ashe, named for the owner of the place G.K. Ashe. He starts washing dishes and moves up to vegetable prep. Here he learns a love of cuisine and decides his ultimate goal is to bring delicious food to the people of his homeland (btw, we never do learn what country he’s from. I guess it isn’t that important.). He hooks up with one of the sous chefs there, named Sophie, who seems like a cool girl, but who isn’t built to handle the serious stuff of a life like Lev’s. He finds a room to rent, and makes friends with his landlord/flatmate, an Irishman plumber with a drinking problem named Christy Slane. Christy has recently suffered a major loss: his wife has left him, taking their daughter and most of their furniture. Christy is a sad and lonely man, and I’m glad he and Lev find each other. Let’s see, what else should I say about the plot? Eh, I don’t think I’ll give anything else away. Suffice it to say that The Road Home does lead Lev back to his country, though for a while I really thought he would make a go of it in London, and bring his mother, daughter, and best friend Rudi there to be with him. But that’s not meant to be, and that’s okay. I’m not sure how accurate to a true immigrant’s experience Lev’s is in London. Do they all settle in and make friends and find work and a place to live as quickly as he does? I simply do not know. Sometimes it strains credulity that he’s able to accomplish as much as he does as quickly as he does. But Tremain moves the story along. I admit, I was drawn into Lev’s story quite quickly. I was rooting for him to make a living, to find a home, to get the girl. I was sad when things went poorly for him and happy when they worked out. I found The Road Home to be an enjoyable book with well-drawn characters and a fairly compelling story. I have very little to complain about but at the same time not a ton of things to recommend it over any number of the many other reasonably good quality contemporary novels I have read in the past few years. Will I remember details of this book in five years? I’m not sure that I will. But I hope I do.

Initially I decided that these two books have little in common other than I read them at the same time, and both have male protagonists. But then I thought about it, and I decided that Lev and Jonas have one important thing in common: they are isolated from their home and family. Lev is physically isolated, and Jonas becomes emotionally isolated after becoming the Receiver of Memories, as well as physically isolated when he leaves the community that has been his home for thirteen years (no spoilers here, gang, that’s all I’m saying). But where Lev is doing everything he can to get home and end his isolation, Jonas takes steps, conscious steps, to makes his isolation absolute and complete. But he leaves to perhaps find something better and more complete than the life he has known. Lev’s is temporary but a necessary step to finding his way back to himself and his family. I’m pretty sure I could go on in this vein for a while, but I think I’m going to stop. It’s Daylight Savings Time eve, after all, and though the clock says it’s only ten o’clock, it’s actually eleven, and I need to work in the morning. Have a good Sunday, everyone.

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This entry was posted in Fiction - Children's, Fiction - Dystopia, Fiction - general, Fiction - Important Award Winners, Lois Lowry, Reviews by Jill, Rose Tremain. Bookmark the permalink.

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