Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!
“The Search for Answers“
by Lois Lowry
I remember a Labor Day weekend back in 1975, when a four-year-old boy named Kurt wandered off from his family’s campsite in the Maine woods and disappeared. The search—police, helicopters, dogs, volunteers, psychics—went on day after day. Weeks passed. The weather turned cold. No trace of the child was ever found.
I was a Maine mother of four children at the time. I remember realizing how unbearable it must have been for that mom on the day when the family had to pack their camping things and return home without their little boy.
You would never stop wondering. Grieving. Searching.
My newest book, Son (Houghton 2012), which creates a quartet from what had been The Giver (Houghton 1993) trilogy, began as the continuation of Gabe’s story from those books. So many readers, over the years, had written to ask what happened to the baby? Was he okay? Did he grow up and thrive?
I even created a form letter instructing the increasing numbers of readers who asked about Gabriel to re-read page 17 of Messenger (Houghton 2004), the third book in the trilogy. Gabe was mentioned there. One sentence, that was all. But it made clear that he was alive and well.
It wasn’t enough. The questions kept coming. The numbers grew.
Eventually, in response, about two years ago, I sat down and began writing another book, this time focusing on the baby, Gabe, grown to adolescence. I moved in with him, figuratively, the way I always do with book characters, and began to feel the restlessness and yearning that would drive the plot of the book. He was fourteen. He had no real past. He wanted to know his origins.
But I wasn’t very far along in Gabe’s story before everything shifted. I found myself wondering about the same thing that was haunting the boy. His mother. Who was she? Why had he been taken from her? Had she cared? Had she looked for him? Where was she now?
That’s when the young birthmother named Claire appeared in my imagination. She was fourteen. The story became hers. It became the story of the bond between a mother and her missing son, the story of every parent who has lost a child. Not a sequel, but a conclusion. I hope it will provide the answers that readers have wanted.
This material may not be used without the express written consent of Lois Lowry.