Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gifts by Ursula Le Guin

I took a Sci-Fi course in college and read The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin and couldn't stand it. Although I also couldn't stand the teacher who was teaching it and never finished the book, so that could have had something to do with it, but after that experience I didn't think that I'd return to Ursula LeGuin's books. And then Nymeth wrote a review of Gifts. The premise reminded me a lot of Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series: a society where different people have different powers, but it turned out to be a completely different kind of book. Yet Like Card, she writes an amazing fantasy story that is touchingly human throughout. Gifts was such a unique book. It's the first book in her Annals of the Western Shore series, though from what I understand the books aren't necessarily a continuation of the same story. The book does indeed focus on a society where individuals each have a specific gift that is inherited through their lineage. Some can "undo", some can call animals, some can heal, some can disfigure, some can summon fire, etc. Our story focuses on Orrec and Gry, two childhood friends and the book is the retelling of their past. It focuses mostly on Orrec's gift. Orrec comes from a line of people who can "undo"....this can mean turning a field barren, undoing a knot, or basically turning a person or animal into jello. But Orrec has not yet come into his gift. His father wants nothing more than to see his son gain his gift as it is important for him in society to have his son display it. When undoing's begin to happen around Orrec, they are seemingly "wild" and out of his control, so he agrees to wear a blindfold and live blind until he can control his gift. LeGuin writes an extremely touching story as Orrec navigates his surroundings blindly, listening to his mothers' stories (which are told beautifully) and becoming a teller of tales himself. He becomes an outcast, a boy who is feared due to his strong powers that require him to be blinded and his only confidant is his friend Gry. They are a support to each other as each of their families are trying to decide what their futures will be. I've cast aside all of my previous assumptions as far as LeGuin's work goes. Maybe there are some books of hers that are not for me, but I can't wait to read the rest of this series. It truly is a gift.

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