Messenger by Lois Lowry is the third instalment to The Giver Quartet. Lois Lowry’s writing is one that is truly inspiring. Somehow, in some way, she draws you in slowly but intriguingly, keeping answers in your view but not reachable until she decides. In this story we follow Matt or now Matty (as he has grown to an age to have a two syllables name) and it takes place six years after Gathering Blue and eight years after The Giver, meaning that Gathering Blue takes place about two years after The Giver. (Matty is probably about Kira’s age when she first appears or slightly older, Kira is now around twenty years old here.)
This book, much like the second, moves away from the scientific world and much more into a magical, supernatural world. However, it is still set in the same time period, dystopian and happening in the same place. Matty now lives with Kira’s father in the Village which is lead by the Leader – he has amazing blue eyes – and we later find out that this person is in fact, Jonas who arrived with Gabe (who is now eight) on a red sled. It seems life has changed for the better in all communities and villages since The Giver. We learn that after Jonas’ arrival, he was sent books and books by his old community as a sorry and an acceptance of his choice. It seems with Jonas leaving and the memories free for all to attain, it made his old home a free and happy place to live. But he did not want to return as he had made his life in the Village. The same can be said of Kira who lives in a nice, homely cottage and is now an independent woman. Kira says she is able to read Shakespeare and her gift has advanced. It seems the town had accepted women as more than just housewives and were able to learn and advance to other options – while not explained fully, it obvious that the status of women has risen and they are free to live and do as they please. It seems they can now choice their own path which is what I wanted and I was very happy that it had moved on from Gathering Blue’s women status. In here, it seems, and it is said or just by Matty’s observation of the town (how it seemed nicer) that women were in fact, seen as equals. Despite this, like Jonas, Kira decided that when the time came (when Matty turned up at her doorstep) she would leave. It seems despite the town and Jonas’ community changing, they did not want to stay and instead be free to leave and choose, which is an option they both have is now.
In this story we see more of the Village, there is a school (where all can learn, again, something I was happy with after being angered during Gathering Blue at the treatment of women – here there are equal opportunities for men and women), a museum with relics and historical things of each person’s past from where they came from – Jonas from his community and others from all over. Matty finally sees how large the world actually is. Jonas has his own house as do all the citizens with their families. He has millions of books as Matty remarks, with spiral stairs and books along all walls. He is fascinated by his Leader. The Village is a nice, healing and caring place – everyone learns, there are no secrets, all work and have jobs to contribute and are all treated fairly. Each person gets their true name given by the Leader (because he sees beyond) and that becomes their job, much like in The Giver, except more magical and expressive as it is what is true to the person’s heart. For example, the blind man, Christopher, Kira’s father is a Seer, Matty who thought he was Messenger, is actually a Healer which is revealed in a bittersweet ending. There is a Mentor, so much like a head teacher who teaches at the school – he loves poetry and Shakespeare. It seems to be a very nice, woodsy like Village with food, campfires and warmth. Also, everyone has a say in what happens at the Village and all can vote when they get their true name, so much like how we can vote when we come of age.
I loved following Matty on his story and his strange discoveries. He sees Christopher as a father and Christopher sees Matty as a son. Together, they live and Matty has lost all his naughty ways, learnt to wash, read, write and speak properly. He has grown up and forgotten stealing and talking with a bad mouth. Instead, he has become quite mature. It was nice to see such a lovely character grow. Throughout the book we meet Matty’s friends and who his crush and friend is, Jean – the Mentor’s daughter. I loved reading about Matty’s and Chris’ father and son relationship, Matty asking him questions, learning to cook and the usual bickering that happens between families.
However, the book takes a dark turn when Matty learns of the boarder closing. It seems that the Village’s views are changing – they don’t want anyone else coming into the little Village and it seems the magical forest has darkened – it stops people from leaving, killing them and tries to stop people from entering. The forest kills (not often) but as it starts to happen more, Matty visits the leader. Matty has noticed that people are changing. Those who were once nice and caring, allowing people to join the Village have grown cold, selfish and harsh. Matty tells the Seer and the Leader that he believes it’s because of this trading at the trade market for a game of some sorts and it seems people trading (much like gambling is seen in a harsh light) are giving parts of their soul for this game – like selling your soul to the devil. So, the Mentor becomes taller and more handsome to win the affections of a woman and so on. People’s views on the Village change and they want to close the boarder, which the Leader has to agree to as it’s a large population of people wanting so. The forest becomes darker as all things that are evil spread and all good things must come to an end.
Matty then realises the time has come to bring Kira. He reaches Kira’s cottage after a long and hard journey with his new dog, Frolic (named by the Leader) and given by Jean. Branch, had sadly passed away – we all loved that little pup.
Kira has already seen ahead – she can see the future while Jonas can see that and more. They have a similar gift, but Kira can do so with her hands. She knew Matty would be along and so agrees to come back with Matty but not to the healing of her leg. During this book, Matty has discovered he has a power – he can heal. He healed a frog’s leg, helped the mother dog and Frolic back to life and now he wishes to help his friend but she refuses. She says it has made her into who she is. Together, they journey back through the forest (I honestly would’ve liked to see more about what happened in Kira’s town to make it how it is and see some of Thomas but we can’t have everything), it is a hard journey and the forest attempts to kill them. They are broken and dying when Jonas enters the forest to help them. He speaks to Kira through his mind and they forge a link (Jonas had already seen her through his mind and immediately thought she was special). Jonas tells Matty that he needs to heal the forest and in doing so will heal Kira and help Jonas to find them.
But it comes with a price. A tough, hard price.
Matty gives himself up as he heals the forest and by doing so, let’s himself go and he is able to stretch far and wide to heal those of the Village who had become corrupted. The Mentor goes back to himself and the walls for the boarder come down. The forest becomes kind and full of life again, Jonas finds Kira and Frolic is back to himself, but in the process they have lost their friend – Matty.
It was a sad and shocking ending. I didn’t expect Matty to die and I didn’t want him to. But in doing so, we found that Matty’s true name was Healer and that he had managed to help so many people in his sacrifice. Bittersweet as it was, in a way Matty’s death was for the greater good and all he achieved could not have possibly happened if he had healed manually – he needed to let go and do so magically and spiritually.
This was something I liked and also wondered about – the magical element of this book, which was growing in the last. It seems science is being left behind (or rather, being used as well as magic) and magic is forming. Perhaps as if saying some old things are better used than forgotten, that magic needs its place again and not all things can be answered through science. Perhaps it’s a way of moving forward, to be magical and creative, expressive and free. Maybe it’s about finding old roots and using them for good, rather than forgetting who we are and losing things we once treasured. Perhaps it’s about finding that very human curiosity and love for the magical, perhaps it’s about finding old pathways that once made us human to make us better people. Either way, it’s a nice thing to think about.
How would the world be with magic and not science? Or better yet, with both.