Gifts by Ursula LeGuin

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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19 Responses

  1. I’ll have to add it to my list to read at some point in time. I still haven’t done any Margaret Edwards reading, so maybe I’ll choose this one as well.

  2. Becky, This is my second for the Edwards challenge! All I have left is an OSC…can you believe I haven’t read anything by him yet this year?!

  3. tsk tsk … you haven’t read any OSC (yes, I know: Card) what ever have you been doing? *snicker*

    glad you are getting some reading done though.. i sure miss knowing you aren’t “on line” much! But bless your mom for letting you use her computer! (trust me you’d have to fight me for mine! lol)

    Hey, any news from texas???

  4. Deslily, I know…can you believe I haven’t read any Card yet this year?! Nuts! I’m glad I’m finally getting some reading done too. About to finish book number 2 of the month. Thank goodness! What would we do without mom’s huh? lol…luckily, she only uses her for business, so I get free use of it pretty much. No news from damn Texas 😦 Damn stupid Texas….

  5. This post made me so happy. I am absolutely thrilled that you enjoyed this one so much, Chris. And what a beautiful review!

    The rest of the series is just as good, if not better. This whole series really is a gift.

    I love Ursula Le Guin, and even I would say that some of her books are not for me. She’s the only one among my favourite authors of whom I say that – I happily devour everything Neil, Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, etc. write. But even though some of her books are not for me, I still don’t hesitate to list her among my favourites. I think that says something about just how good I think the good ones are.

  6. I got a free copy of this book (looks different than this one though) that a friend picked up for me at a comic convention. It is a NICE hardback book, I couldn’t believe they were giving them away. I haven’t read any of her stuff and look forward to reading this at some point.

  7. Nymeth, I’m so glad to hear that the rest of the series is even better! I was a little worried because it left Orrec and Gry and I really liked them…but I trust your judgement 🙂 I completely get what you’re saying about Le Guin after reading this book. I can see how she would be a favorite author of yours. I think I just don’t like her sci-fi. Though this is the first fantasy of hers I read. Definitely looking forward to reading more of hers though…this was just awesome!

    Carl, You will love this one! I thought about you while I was reading it…it seems like your kind of book. I remember you telling me that you had a copy sitting on your shelf…move it up on the TBR list, you won’t be disappointed 😉

  8. ursula le guin is definitely my favourite author of all time.There’s something about the way she writes that makes me shiver with joy and a slight hint of jealousy! I’ve just finished Tales of Earthsea and even if I didn’t like all of them the same way, her storytelling made me devour the book in no time.
    You should deinitely read A wizard of Earthsea and the rest of the trilogy.

  9. I just read this book, too. I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to, but I still enjoyed the story. I’m planning to read the rest of the series – it will be interesting to see what other characters she comes up with, and if she comes back to the story of Orrec.

    This was my first Le Guin, but I’m planning to read more.

  10. Ack, Chris! First Nymeth, now you – how am I supposed to resist? Onto the tbr pile it goes. 🙂

    It’s a shame how a bad teacher can totally wreck a perfectly good book, isn’t it?! I’m glad you were able to start fresh with Le Guin, and that you had such a positive experience.

  11. Valentina, I think I have a copy of the first Earthsea book somewhere around here. I bought one at a used bookstore awhile ago because I loved the cover so much. It was an old copy. I enjoyed Gifts so much that I’m really looking forward to reading more of her stuff!

    Susan, It really was a good story. It went in a totally different direction than I thought it was going to before I had started it if that makes any sense. I thought it was going to be some type of high fantasy, but it wasn’t at all. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I’ve heard that Orrec shows up in the next book, but isn’t a main character. I wouldn’t recommend The Lathe of Heaven for more leGuin…at least I didn’t like it…it’s a sci-fi book, with a touch of fantasy.

    Darla, :p With the way you go through books this one will be a quick read! It was hard to put down. It really is ashame how a bad teacher can ruin a good author…he almost did that with Le Guin for me, but I’m so glad I gave her another chance…really enjoyed this one!

  12. I read Nymeth’s reviews of this series as well and am hoping to give it a go next year. I am glad it has changed your opinion of her. I enjoyed the four Earthsea books I have read (must track down book five), but she wasn’t what I was expecting.

  13. Rhinoa, I think you’ll really enjoy this series…or this book at least. It rocked. I guess I should check out the Earthsea books! I keep hearing good stuff about them and I’m convinced that I have the first one somewhere around here. I know I bought it at least…

  14. I really love the Lathe of Heaven, but there are other LeGuin books I don’t like at all. She’s one of those hit-or-miss authors with me. (I do like the Earthsea books, but have to be in the right mood for them). What did you dislike about Lathe? Was it just not what you expected?

  15. Jeane, I don’t think that it was the story of The Lathe of Heaven that I disliked so much as it was her writing style…I just couldn’t get into it for the life of me. And like I said in the post, I never finished it, so I really can’t judge the story. I honestly think that I associate much of that book with the teacher who was teaching it, so maybe that was the problem. I guess I should reread it (or actually read it all the way through :p) one of these days. She seems to be hit or miss with quite a few people from the responses I’ve gotten with this post. I’ve come across very few people who like all of her work. I wonder why that is. Maybe it’s because she’s so varied in her writing and writes so many different types of novels. She has a new one out that sounds interesting called Lavinia…a telling of Lavinia’s story from the Aeneid.

  16. I just finished reading and reviewing this one. I have started on the second, but at the moment I am not loving it. I’m struggling to stay with it. But this one was wonderful 🙂 So thanks for the review!

  17. So glad you liked it Becky 🙂 I’ve heard that the second one is very different from Gifts and I think that I remember Nymeth saying that she didn’t like it near as much after finishing Gifts but liked it much more toward the end. So stay with it! lol…I’ll still read it. I’d like to read the whole series. This one was a great little book. Really enjoyed it.

  18. Fajna strona, znalazlem ja przypadkowo ale teraz bede tu wpadal czesciej, pozdrawiam

  19. My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

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