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Here’s What Happens in the Other Three Giver Books

So you were in fourth or fifth grade when you had to read The Giver — that book with a gnarly, bearded old guy and a bright-gold medal slapped on the cover. It looked important. The story was about a boy named Jonas living in what seemed like the perfect world where there was no hunger, war, or poverty, who then slowly realizes that it’s one deprived of choice, spontaneity, and most memorably, color. This was a book that made you think about bigger ideas like “society” and “free will” and “totalitarianism.” Okay, maybe not “totalitarianism” per se, but it certainly impressed ideas about what suppressing individualism does. For a kid, it was deep.

But what happens at the end of the book? Jonas runs away from the community with a baby, Gabriel, in his arms, but it’s entirely unclear from the last scene — where he’s sledding downhill toward sounds of music  — whether this is a death metaphor or a happy ending. After Lois Lowry published The Giver in 1993, she wrote three more books — starting with Gathering Blue in 2000, Messenger in 2004, and Son in 2012 — to form “The Giver Quartet.” These aren’t sequels in the proper sense, but they do eventually answer the question: What happened? Vulture read the rest of the series to give you the lowdown and to find out whether they’d be worthy of a franchise treatment. (Obvious spoilers below.)

Gathering Blue

What happens?
Of the quartet, this book bears the least relation to The Giver. But there are similarities: The story follows Kira, a young girl who lives in a dystopic society where the strong prey on the weak. Kira is one of the weak: she is born with a “twisted” leg and loses her mother at the outset of the book, leaving her at the mercy of others. The Council of Guardians, the final arbiter of all conflicts, appoints her as the Court Knitter after the town’s women try to banish her; she is assigned to work on the Singer’s robe. (The Singer is kind of like the Giver in the sense that he retains memories, only he wears a fancy robe with the history of the world stitched into it.) Soon we discover that Kira doesn’t just weave — she embroiders the future, and there is a blank space on the robe where she is to stitch what is to come. Then Kira's friend Matty comes back from beyond the forest with a blind man who turns out to be her father; the Council had lied about Kira's family so that they could use her weaving talents. Kira’s father asks her to come home to his peaceful, loving village, but she refuses, believing that she can make her community a better place by staying.

How does it relate to The Giver?
It doesn’t exactly. There are no recurring characters, but surely you can see there are similar themes. There’s a child with a remarkable power, a person who is the receptacle of memory (who is then burdened by that knowledge), and an authoritarian regime bent on controlling those abilities.

Would this make a good movie?
Probably not? Weaving isn’t exactly the sexiest superpower.

Messenger

What happens?
Matty from Gathering Blue is the protagonist of Messenger, which takes place six years later. Matty has since moved to that nice, democratic village with all of the castaways including the blind man, Kira’s father (known as “Seer” here), who has adopted him. The Village’s leader is named, well, Leader, who is — surprise! — actually Jonas from The Giver. The Village has historically been peaceful, but something strange starts to happen when the townspeople participate in “Trade Mart.” Someone named the Trademaster convinces people to trade away their good qualities — honor, courage, energy, etc. — for things that they want, like a slot machine or someone’s love. The Village decides to close its border, and Seer asks Matty, who has rare healing powers, to bring Kira home before that happens. She agrees to come this time, but the forest surrounding the Village has become perilous, and they can barely make the journey home. Matty ultimately sacrifices himself  — by healing the entire forest, at the expense of his own life — so that Kira can get through on their way back.

How does it relate to The Giver?
Jonas reappears in this book as “Leader,” and he tells Matty about his past. The local museum also houses the red sled that he came in on. In terms of thematic elements, the third book tackles how greed, consumerism, and selfishness ruin an otherwise well-functioning society.

Would this make a good movie?
Sure. In the final scene where Matty tries to get Kira back to the village, the two of them have to knit/slash their way through the hostile forest. Leader/Jonas also “sees beyond” to try and save the two, but ultimately it’s Matty’s sacrifice that saves them all.

Son

What happens?
The longest book of the quartet is split into three parts. We’ll just give you the abbreviated version. The book begins in the same time period as The Giver, and it follows Claire, who is Birthmother of Gabriel (the baby that Jonas saves). Something goes wrong with Gabriel’s birth, and she gets her role reassigned from Birthmother to fish hatchery worker. Because of a bureaucratic error, she doesn’t have to go on the emotional suppressant, or the “pill.” Anyway, she starts stalking the baby a lot, because she has all of these maternal instincts and feels love the for the first time. Her memory gets fuzzy after Jonas takes off with the baby, and she finds herself shipwrecked and taken in by seafaring villagers. She gathers her strength there before eventually making her way to find Gabriel in the Village.   

In order to do so however, she makes a trade with the Trademaster. In exchange for seeing her son, he takes her youth, and Claire becomes a decrepit, old woman. Eventually she reveals herself to Jonas and Gabriel, and as luck would have it, her son has developed a superpower called “veering," which allows him to enter people’s bodies and feel what they feel. Gabriel uses his empathy superpowers to enter Trademaster and learns that he sustains himself on the misery of others. Gabriel defeats him by refusing his trades and showing Trademaster that his efforts to wreak havoc on people failed — that his mother still loves him, and that the Village is happy again. Trademaster, who is just evil manifested in human form, then crumbles into a heap after Gabriel overwhelms him with empathy. (See? It’s a good lesson for all young adults!)

How does it relate to The Giver?
This is the most direct link to the first book. We see the babynapping incident from Claire’s point of view as a Birthmother, and then we meet Jonas and Gabriel again when they’re adults. At this point Jonas has also married Kira and has a couple of kids with her, but we don’t know if they have superpowers, too. So in movie terms, it’s both a parallel storyline and a sequel. Son takes place about seven years after Messenger, at which point Jonas is middle-aged and Gabriel an adolescent.

Would this make a good movie?
Yes! There’s a clear bad guy (the Trademaster), and a young boy with superpowers whose destiny is to take him down. Claire also makes for a pretty great heroine; we glossed over the second part of the book in the summary above, but in order to leave the town and find the Trademaster, she has to scale a giant cliff. In order to do so, she trains with a taciturn guy named Fierce Einar who once scaled the cliff to escape his abusive father. He’s still in the village because he refused the Trademaster, who then chopped off his feet, rendering him Lame Einar. Anyway, there could be a lot of cool montages of Claire doing wind sprints carrying bags of rocks. We would watch that movie.

Photo: Amazon