Messenger Summary

Lois Lowry

Messenger

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Messenger Summary

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Messenger is a 2004 young adult novel by American author Lois Lowry. It is the third installment in The Giver Quartet, which began with the award-winning The Giver and also includes Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son. Although it focuses on an original cast of characters, characters from the first two installments do appear as it further explores the dystopian world where all individuality has been eliminated and small enclaves have formed to resist the oppressive government. Messenger focuses on Matty, a teenage boy who serves as a message-bearer through the menacing forest that surrounds his community. As he develops mysterious healing powers, he becomes a focal point for different factions who want to use his powers for their own benefit. Exploring themes such as individuality and the adolescent struggle for identity, Messenger received positive reviews upon its release. Although none of the sequels were as successful or acclaimed as The Giver, all remain popular in school libraries.

As Messenger begins, Matty is living in his small, altruistic society surrounded by thick woods. However, the community is experiencing growing disharmony and people start to call for the borders to be closed. The forest surrounding the village, which was once bright and welcoming, starts to look thicker and darker. Matty was once a young delinquent who liked to call himself the Fiercest of the Fierce. However, after arriving at the village, the community treated him like one of their own, and a blind man named Seer took him into his home. Now on the verge of adulthood, Matty helps Seer with tasks around the home, and they consider themselves family. One day, Matty makes an early trip to the forest but encounters a small frog that unnerves him for some reason. When he returns to the village, he hears mourning songs. The village gatherer, called Gatherer, was killed by the forest, which apparently tangled him in its branches. The people become more and more afraid of the forest, but Matty finds that he has a unique kinship with it and can pass through unscathed. He travels through it to hunt and gather for the village, and becomes the people’s messenger, bringing packages and news from the outside world to the village. Matty hopes to earn the name Messenger from the community by doing this.

Matty hears from his friend Ramon that his family has obtained a new gaming machine from Trade Mart, the bartering market. Matty begs Seer to let him go to Trade Mart, but Seer has heard bad stories about the place. Seer eventually relents, but tells Matty not to trade anything. Matty has nothing to trade, so he’s confused. At Trade Mart, he notices that the place brings out disturbing characteristics in the villagers. Those he knew as kind and friendly now act ruthless and mercenary. Jean, a friend of Matty’s, offers him a puppy from her dog’s recent litter. However, the dogs soon fall ill and most of them die. Matty places his hand on the puppy, and it is mysteriously healed. In a flashback, we see Matty do the same thing to the frog he saw in the woods. He stepped on it, breaking its leg, but was then able to heal it with a touch. With the forest getting more and more dangerous, people in the village want to close the borders and ban travel. One of the elders, Mentor, leads a group of citizens who protest against new arrivals. Leader is able to defuse this protest, but the village eventually votes to close the border. Seer asks Matty to travel through the forest one more time and bring his daughter, Kira, home to the village before the borders close. Matty agrees, and Seer warns him that the forest is becoming more and more dangerous.

As he travels through the forest, Matty notices that the forest is changing. Paths are denser, and there’s a foul odor. He finds Kira, and sees that she’s injured her leg. He offers to heal her, but she refuses. They slowly make their way back to the village. However, the forest becomes more hostile and dangerous on the return. Kira’s feet are cut by twigs, and even Matty finds himself burned by acidic tree sap. Leader, who has been watching over Matty using his psychic powers, realizes that the forest plans to kill the two of them. Leader ventures into the forest to warn them, but is trapped by vines. Injured, Matty asks Kira to use her own gift of seeing the future to reach out to Leader. Able to communicate through Kira, Leader tells Matty to use his gift. Matty places his hands on the forest floor, and heals the forest itself. With the corruption in the forest gone, so is the discord in the village. Kira and Leader’s injuries are healed as well. However, the energy he expended in healing the forest, combined with his injuries, leaves Matty weak and he dies soon afterwards. At his memorial service, leader gives Matty his true name – Healer.

Lois Lowry, born Lois Ann Hammersberg, is an American author of young adult and children’s fictions. The author of over thirty books, she has won two Newbery Medals, for holocaust drama Number the Stars in 1990 and for The Giver in 1993. A three-time nominee for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award for children’s fiction, she is acclaimed for tackling difficult issues such as racism, genocide, terminal illness, and crime in her works.