Set in a future in which communities are entirely regulated, all life patterns ordered for maximum security, uniformity, painless existence, and pleasant, if uneventful family life, this novel unfolds the story of Jonas, a promising boy who, with all his age peers, will receive his adult assignment from the elders on the yearly day of advancement celebrated for all children going through carefully calibrated developmental stages. Jonas's assignment, however, sets him apart from his peers, and ultimately from the whole community.

He is selected as the next Receiver of Memories, a post that allows him access to knowledge of the past carefully guarded from all but one Receiver in each generation. His lot will be to bear the pain of bearing, not only in his mind and imagination, but in his body, feelings and sensations suppressed in others by lifelong administration of biochemical regulators.

Besides the old Receiver of Memories, whom Jonas calls The Giver, he becomes the only one able to see colors, feel pain, desire, loss, hunger, and to remember a world in which people felt something deeper than superficial stirrings. Among other things, he discovers what it is to feel love. Horrified at the blankness in which his people live, he chooses, with the Giver's blessing, and at great risk, to escape the community, and thus to release into it the memories he will not keep to himself.

Rescuing a child destined for "release" for nonstandard development, Jonas embarks on a journey that leads him to a faraway place where the old life survives, leaving behind him a community that will emerge from their anaesthetized condition into the costly terms on which the gifts of ecstasy, joy, awareness, grief, and pain give life its value.


Lowry's skill as storyteller is once again amply demonstrated in this compelling narrative. The horror Jonas experiences at the mindless pleasure of a numbed existence makes even his consent to pain and grief fully understandable. Helpful in vividly distinguishing unity from uniformity, security from top-down control, bland comfort from deep pleasure, and mindless attachment from love, the novel invites readers to reflect on the many temptations to release from basic human responsibility and the cosmic contract that involves us in ambiguity and loss--and to resist them. Highly relevant for a generation whose access to drugs, electronic artifice, and security at the price of freedom puts them and all of us at risk.


Houghton Mifflin

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