Friday, April 28, 2006

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

I have to begin by saying I love and admire Lois Lowry. I love her books, her speeches, her blog, but I'm not sure what to make of her latest novel, Gossamer. I do know I will be haunted by it.

This story follows Littlest One, a dream-giver in training. Littlest One gathers fragments of memories by touching the belongings of an abused eight-year-old boy, John, and his foster parent, an elderly woman, in order to bestow the comforting memories on them as dreams.

It's ironic that while the main characters of this book fight to overcome nightmares, I think this book will cause me and many other readers to have nightmares. John is also visited by Sinisteeds, creatures that create nightmares. The descriptions of Sinisteeds are scary on their own, but paired with the nightmares from John's past they are terrifying. The description of his abuse is rather graphic, especially the memory of being treated like a dog and starved until he would eat dog food, which his father then rubbed his face while his mother cried and then was beaten for crying.

Another element of the book that won't sit well with a lot of readers is the way John issues violent threats. It only makes sense that the abuse would cause John to have some issues, but I was surprised by some of his threats; he often mentions shooting people and even talks about bringing a gun to school and shooting another kid if a kid breaks one of his favorite posessions
. He tells his foster mom that since she loves her dog he might kidnap it and hold it for ransom or kill it and cut off its ears and mail them to her. After the days of Columbine, this language is not tolerated in school and it will probably not go over well in literature either. I can already hear some parents calling for a ban.

Overall, there were some sincerely lovely parts of the book, but I still need time to reconcile them with the rest of the book.

1 comment:

Mom to Allison and James said...

I just finished the book last night and waited to read your review until I had finished it myself. I did not feel that this book was appropriate as a childrens book because of the violence that you mentioned. Having said this, I think the book is excellent at showing ways to deal with tough children. I enjoyed the way the foster mother had so much patience and wit about her, but having dealt with some tough children in the past I felt this young boy needed more than love from a foster mother. He needed some counceling and fast. His violent comments bothered me greatly. I hope children won't read this book and feel it was appropriate to act this way. As for the writing of Lois Lowry, she sure did come up with another crazy fantastical world that was truely believable. I found myself wondering as I started to fall asleep last night what dreams the dreamgivers would strengthen me with.