I just finished the second and third book in the Lois Lowry series that begins with The Giver. I posted earlier about my affinity for The Giver but about my frustration at its length and failure to offer any real closure in regards to the central conflict in the novel. This tradition continues into the second novel, and (while not as prevalent) is also present in the third. These problems do not outshine the warmth and quality of these latter two novels, but still leave the reader wanting (maybe that is the point though).
The second novel in the series is titled Gathering Blue. I should mention, however, that the series is not really a standard one as series go. There are no characters that appear or speak in the second novel that were in the first. The only reference that we get to the other story at all is a mention of a young man with pale blue eyes who lives in a different village from that of the protagonist. We assume that this pale blue eyed fellow is Jonas—though he is no longer referred to by that name in the second or third book.
The third novel is titled Messenger. Because the books are both so short, I will keep a rehashing of plot elements to a minimum—what is important to know is that both books take place on the same “world” as The Giver did—a post apocalyptic Earth. Each introduce and describe different utopias in this world, though each are vastly different from each other (which is kind of cool since they are all on the same planet). Each book, like The Giver, centers on a protagonist with a special power that can be used to serve others. The books are all about how these young people come to terms with their inner power and how they learn how to use it for good.
The thing that I like about these novels is that the “broad strokes” (there’s that term again!) are colorful and bright. The picture that they present to the reader leaves much to the imagination—in other words, the reader is really only told a few details about the environments in the book and is left to fill in the blanks. Unfortunately, these broad strokes are where the novels are lacking for me as well. Lowry introduces (in all three books) potential antagonists with which a detailed conflict would be very interesting and then never uses them. It’s a bizarre choice for me, dramatically. Gathering Blue has almost no conflict in it at all—so the story arc ends up a little weird. Like The Giver it seems to end just when it starts to get good. This is alleviated a bit by the fact that Messenger deals with many of the same characters as Gathering Blue does, so we get a bit of closure on some plot points (plus the Jonas character gets a supporting role). In a word, the books are soft. If you like that kind of thing (and I am thinking particularly of you, Dad), you should really enjoy them. I did—though they all left me a bit hungry.
I should also mention here that I am halfway through Pirsig’s famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I really like it—though it is a very different kind of book. It is ½ philosophy theory, ¼ self-help, and ¼ travel narrative. The theory gets a bit complicated and thick at times, but the self-help stuff is well disguised and isn’t preachy or toot-your-own-horn-y like some self-help stuff I have read. The travel narrative is the part of the book that I wish there was more of. I love reading about places and scenery—I guess I am just at the part of my life right now. Anyway, more on this book in a few weeks when I finish it.