Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue
Book review by Monica Friedman
Young Artists Seeking Truth in a Post-Apocalyptic World
Most fans of children’s literature have read the Newbery-winning The Giver, but many people are not aware that it’s only the first book in a trilogy about a world where civilization has collapsed so completely that the moral values of our time are without meaning.
Gathering Blue is the second book in the series, and while it does not reunite us with either the location or the characters of the first book (except, possibly, for a single, cryptic sentence), it is set in the same time and a place that can’t be very far off.
Kira is in a dangerous position: by the laws of her community, she should have been put out in the fields and taken by the beasts long ago, and now that both of her parents and her grandfather are dead, there’s no one left to defend her.
A neighbor who wants her land has every right to take her to the Council of Guardians and make a case for casting her out. After all, Kira can’t walk without a crutch, which means she can’t work, which means she can’t marry...
Which means she’s useless.
Except that Kira has a special talent for color and embroidery, a little-practiced art in her village of mud and stick huts.
The Council is well aware of her talents, and rescues her from her neighbor’s wrath. Now, she is to live in the Council Edifice—a stately relic of another time with running water and other facilities she could never have imagined—and undertake a great work: restoring and completing the Singer’s robe, a beautiful, ancient artifact whose pictures tell the story of human history, as far as it is known.
Also living in the Edifice is a boy her own age, Thomas, who came there under similar circumstances, and does similar work, restoring and completing the Singer’s staff, which has much the same purpose as the robe.
And there is another child there, Thomas thinks, someone who cries in the night, someone they never see.
Kira is busy. In addition to sewing, she must acquire all the accumulated knowledge of Annabella, an old woman who has mastered the art of dyeing thread, and, because she is a girl, it is forbidden for her to read or write.
Even with Thomas’s help, it’s a lot to remember.
And in any case, her people have lost the secret of making blue dye. Annabella knows the plant they need is called woad, and that it grows somewhere over “yonder,” but more than that, Kira has no way of knowing.
Although life in the Council Edifice is a great material improvement over their previous existence, Kira and Thomas begin to see that their lives are no longer their own, and that the Council does not necessarily tell them everything.
Besides which, it seems like some of the things they’re told might not even be true. And there are other secrets, frightening hints of knowledge that their world might be even less fair than they thought.
Gathering Blue presents a heroine who is strong enough to overcome her own physical disabilities, as well as the psychological issues of everyone around her. Even when hope appears, Kira must decide how to proceed: in a way that will allow her to save herself, or a way that will allow her to save everyone else.
Read our review of The Giver.
The third book, Messenger, on Amazon.
More science fiction.
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