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Messenger    by Lois Lowry order for
by Lois Lowry
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Lois Lowry's Messenger links characters and intent to the previous novels in the trilogy - The Giver and Gathering Blue. The story continues in a utopian community whose central values - as proposed by Leader and voted so by the people - are honesty and no secrets. Many residents came from places with cruel governments, harsh punishment, poverty, or false comforts. It was also Leader's insistence that all Village's citizens, including children, must learn to read and participate in caring for one another.

When protagonist Matty arrived in Village six years ago, he was adopted by Seer, a blind man with a special vision behind his ruined eyes. Matty is no longer a boy, but not yet a man, experiencing a deepening voice and knowledge while awaiting the day he fully earns the name Messenger. He senses a force within him that he cannot yet explain, and hesitates to discuss it with anyone. Matty previously lived in a community that shunned deformities. But here in Village, marks and failings are valued. Schoolteacher Mentor, affectionately called Rosy for the 'crimson birthmark that spread across his face', is loved by all, especially the children in Village.

Matty likes spending time with his friend Ramon fishing, especially since the latter's family traded for a Gaming Machine, which rewards the player with candy. But no one ever knows what great sacrifices are made in a trade. The Trade Mart, a very old custom, is due to arrive in Village and Matty is anxious to attend. Seer advises Matty that he is too young, but if he must go, asks him to promise that he will not make a trade. There is talk among the villagers that the Mart has changed, with a secrecy to it now, and they feel something's wrong. Matty is known for his ability to travel Forest at the edge of Village, and is depended upon to deliver messages to other communities. Forest's paths are unsafe to many travelers.

Leader gives Matty messages to deliver to residents. Someone has started a petition to be voted on to close Village to future outsiders. The excuses are flimsy, such as depletion of supplies and housing, but Seer forecasts a Selfishness creeping into Village and its inhabitants. The petition vote passes and orders are issued that Village will close in three weeks time. Leader asks Matty to deliver a message to tell communities that Village is closing to outsiders. Seer asks Matty to travel to encourage his daughter Kira (a shunned cripple valued for dye-making) to come to Village before its gates are closed. As Matty travels through Forest, he notices that it isn't letting him through as gently as previously.

Though Messenger can stand alone, I encourage reading The Giver and Gathering Blue first, in order to follow Lois Lowry's remarkable cast of characters, and not miss the essence or the rhythm of this enticing trilogy. It is well worth the effort. Just as the message of closing Village to outsiders is powerful, so is the trilogy's ending.

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