Clare, a birth-mother in the dystopian world of the Giver, forms an attachment to her son that her society never intended for her to have, and which leads her to embark on a quest of over ten years to find him. Clare is chosen at the age of twelve to become a birth-mother. It is not particularly a surprise; most people's career assignment fits what they have become during their first twelve years of life. She goes to live with the other birth-mothers and receives training. She is told that giving birth doesn't hurt, and reassured that everything will go well. After a short medical operation, she becomes pregnant with the first of three children she will supposedly bear for her community.
Her trainers lied. Giving birth hurts. And it hurts more for Clare than for others because something goes wrong; the child is cut out of her. Clare is subsequently relieved of her duty to bear more children and reassigned to the fish hatchery to work. Through an error, Clare is no longer given pills she received before becoming a birth-mother that suppress her hormones and emotions, however. Everyone in the community takes them, and while she had been exempt while pregnant, she should have been given her prescription again following the child's birth. As a result, Clare begins to have longings to see her child. She doesn't tell, however. She knows her longings are forbidden in her community, because they would threaten her community's stability and way of life. Yet she doesn't want to "fix" them, either.
Clare figures out where her child is. Her child is a son, Gabriel, the blond-haired blue-eyed boy that Jonas rescued in The Giver. She begins to visit him in her spare time with the pretext of volunteering for the Nurturing Center that takes care of babies before they are assigned a family. After Gabriel's second (extra) year at the center, however, Gabriel and Jonas disappear. Wanting to follow, Clare slips onto a visiting boat from another community and, against community regulation, leaves.
Clare is shipwrecked near an unfamiliar village. She is rescued but her memories are gone. Many things are unfamiliar, though - more so than to someone who had merely lost her memory. She begins by learning about color and music; then about love (though there are no explicit or inappropriate scenes in the book - completely ok for younger readers). She stays true to her goal, however, and her friend respects her for it. He trains her so she will be able to climb the cliff that bounds the village on the opposite side from the sea. He also warns her of a man at the top who will be able to help her, but for a heavy price - and if she refuses, he will become angry, perhaps throwing her back down the cliff.
After seven years, it is time. Clare climbs the cliff. In return for her youth, the man at the top leads her to her son. She settles in the same village, and rejoices in seeing him grow up, but mourns that she cannot tell him who she really is; he would not believe her. More years pass. When her son is a teenager, the man from the top of the cliff comes. His nature has become true to the villagers. He gives people wishes in the manner he does because he lives on their misery. Her son is to be the one to defeat him. Just before he is to go, she tells him who she is, and tells him her story, understanding at last that her story is an important missing piece of the puzzle that will allow the village to rid themselves of a long-time enemy. She, old as she is given the mysterious man's price, is on the verge of death. Yet by knowing that she had paid such a price and yet lived her life and been happy anyway, and by presenting this to their enemy, her son is able to defeat him. When he returns, his mother stands outside the hut waiting for him, once again young, with her red hair flowing down her back.
Best part of story, including ending:
Clare is persistent, and finds a way to be happy in spite of the obstacles. Her friend in the village also loves her and supports her both, and even more so for understanding her mission and understanding that when the time comes, she will leave to be with her son.
Best scene in story:
When Clare first arrives in the village, it's fascinating to see her discover such simple things as color and music that we take for granted. It takes her some time to understand them.
Opinion about the main character:
Clare is quietly persistent in a way that does not conform to her society's expectations. She appears to conform while she needs to, but when the opportunity arises, she does what she needs to in order to be herself. She is also able to find happiness in spite of the odds.