Son is the fourth and final book in Lois Lowry's Giver Quartet, tying together and spanning the timelines of The Giver, Gathering Blue and Messenger and beyond (and as such, this article contains spoilers for those three books). It was released in 2012.
The first part of the novel, Before, follows Claire, girl from the Community shown in The Giver who is three years ahead of Jonas. Having not been a good student, she is selected to become a Birthmother — girls who give birth thrice to sustain the Community's population and are relegated to factory work afterwards. After complications necessitate a Caesarian delivery, Claire's assignment as Birthmother is terminated and she is reassigned to the Fish Hatchery. Nevertheless, she finds ways to spend time with her baby despite the system forbidding it by volunteering to care for Number Thirty-Six (whom Giver readers know as Gabriel) at the Nursing Center. She grows to love him as well, and realizes that she's the only one who experiences such deep feelings.
And then Jonas takes Gabe with him to Elsewhere. Claire attempts to follow them on a boat, but a storm hits and she is shipwrecked.
Between, the second part, is about Claire as she adjusts to being amnesiac on an idyllic, isolated seaside community. She quickly finds a life there after she is taken in by the local midwife and healer, Alys, and befriends the local lonely shepherd Einar. But as her memories slowly return, she remembers that she has one goal — to find her son, no matter what the cost.
The third part, Beyond, picks up in Village a few years after the events of Messenger and alternates between the points of view of Jonas, now Happily Married and settled down, Gabe, now a curious young man trying to find his mother, and Claire.
Tropes present in Son include:
- Adult Fear:
- Claire's situation entirely: she gives birth to a child that she cannot keep and rear, and without the Stirrings pills she develops maternal affection for him. She visits Gabriel and his caretaker, but has no idea that he will be Released to Elsewhere due to sleeping poorly. Then he goes missing, and while trying to find him by jumping on a boat and running away, an act that could have easily gotten her Released as well, and fails thanks to a shipwreck. It takes making a Deal with the Devil to get close to Gabriel, which causes him to not recognize her at first.
- Jonas's father gets a moment before Claire runs away to find Gabriel, when he says that his son is missing. Soon he will be facing the terrible and great memories that Jonas has left behind, and with it the feelings of intense love, fear, guilt and regret.
- For Gabriel, it's not knowing his mother and wanting to learn about her. He's willing to return to the community that wanted him dead to find her again.
- Baby Factory: The Birthmothers' role. They are selected at twelve, artificially inseminated, and are expected to carry the baby to term. After the third birth they become laborers until they cannot work.
- Belated Happy Ending: From The Giver. Jonas is now married to Kira and has two kids with her, while Gabe reunites with Claire.
- Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity: Claire ends up in a community that can only be exited in one of two ways; taking a boat over the water that borders the village, or climbing the incredibly tall cliffs that surround the rest of it. Only one person has ever done the latter, and was just as easily sent back down. Claire, however, is afraid of boats (the way she came to the community in the first place was by washing up on their shores after a shipwreck), so she decides to climb the cliffs in order to continue her search for her son, and her training as well as the torturous climb itself is given much detail. She makes it.
- Dead Guy Junior: Jonas and Kira's daughter is named Annabelle for Kira's dead mentor Annabella, while their son is named Matthew for their dead friend Matty.
- Deal with the Devil: Invoked by Einar, who tells Claire that the Trademaster lingers at the top of the cliff, wanting to make deals. Einar refused to make a deal after he made the climb, so the Trademaster pushed him back down and crippled him. Claire makes the deal, giving up her youth in exchange for being able to move forward and see her son.
- Defiled Forever: The fact that Claire gave birth before sixteen and without a husband is considered scandalous in the village where she spends the middle of the book.
- For Want of a Nail: The entire central plot happens because after her unexpected issues giving birth and subsequent abrupt reassignment, the Community accidentally didn't get Claire back on the pills (temporarily halted before she gave birth, as was normal) that would have quashed any feelings of motherhood and attachment to her newborn son.
- Fountain of Youth: At the end of the book, Gabe destroys Trademaster, thus restoring Claire back to her youth, which at this point is about twenty-nine.
- Happily Married: Jonas and Kira obviously have a loving, stable relationship.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Jonas escaping the Community with Gabe (a major spoiler for the first book) and becoming Leader (something that was implied in the third book) is mentioned to set up the story.
- Love at First Sight: Tall Andras falls head-over-heels for Claire as soon as he sees her floating in the water. He does ditch her after the secret about her pregnancy comes out, and marries someone else.
- Missed Him by That Much: Subverted, mercifully. Gabriel prepares to go to find his mother by building a boat to return to the community where he was born, but this plan is postponed for his confrontation with the Trademaster. Unbeknownst to him, his mother, Claire, has been in the village for several years, but due to her unnatural aging has chosen not to reveal herself.
- Missing Mom: Gabe frequently wonders who his mother is, and is frustrated by Jonas's explanation that his being taken away from her was only part of the system. He eventually attempts to build a boat in order to find her.
- Rapid Aging: Trademaster's bargain for transporting Claire to Gabriel's location is taking her youth. She gets better.
- Remember the New Guy?: Claire is never mentioned in The Giver despite regularly visiting Gabe and Jonas' father. In Son Jonas even recalls his father mentioning her despite it never being mentioned in The Giver.
- Series Continuity Error: The novel uses words like "death" and the concept of love before Jonas changes things (although "death" is used in relation to fish, so the Community might simply have different terminology for animals).
- Someone Has to Do It: Claire's parents mention that if Birthmothers didn't exist, then no one would.
- Teen Pregnancy: Inevitable with the Birthmothers as they are inseminated at 13-14 and give birth thrice.
- The Un-Reveal:
- We don't see how Jonas and Claire's community changed after receiving the memories after they both left. The only thing that's different is Jonas's father shouting that his son his missing.
- We also never learn Jonas's father's name, despite Claire becoming fairly close to him. She realizes she never asked him what it was shortly before the end of the first third of the book.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Despite being very aware of the evil in Trademaster, Jonas refuses to aid Gabe in fighting him, citing this trope.
- What Could Have Been: In-Universe, Claire wonders what would have happened if she'd just stayed and married Einar.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Claire performs pretty amazing things in the name of finding her son, but retains a fear of water after nearly drowning in the sea. She's also afraid of many types of animals in the village at first, since she'd never seen them before.