“Suddenly Kira knew that although her door was not locked, she was not really free. Her life was limited to these things and this work. She was losing the joy she once felt when the bright-colored threads took shape in her hands, when the patterns came to her and were her own.”
“Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry
Considered a companion novel to her acclaimed, award-winning young adult novel The Giver, Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry revisits the post-apocalyptic future world presented to us in that previous novel, but in a much different place. While the world presented in The Giver is a clear utopia with dysfunction lying underneath, the world of Gathering Blue is much more of a dystopia. Young Kira lives in a world where life is mean, dirty, and tough, where it was only through the grace of her grandfather’s position in the world that she was saved a dismal death for having a bad leg. But Kira has another saving grace as well: the talent of her fingers and her ability to create beautiful images with thread. When her mother dies of an illness and her place in the rough and tumble community is question, Kira finds her position elevated, discovering a new, secret world hidden by the leaders of the community, dependent on her talents and the skills of a few other artistically inclined children to carry on the relics of their history.
This world, however, is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Kira soon discovers a shocking secret that leaves her doubting everything in her entire existence. Upon the first read of Gathering Blue, I was easily enchanted, once more, with Lowry’s incredible depth in world building. There is great, rich detail of another fascinating society in these pages, regarding history, social structure, and even an intriguing little naming structure based on age, where toddlers’ names only have one syllable, older children (like Kira and Thomas, for example) earn a second one, and adults (Christopher, Marlena, Jameson) have three. Age brings the impressive four syllable name. I wonder, though, if, when I first read this book, I was so taken with Lowry’s world building that I was able to be more impressed by the book than on this second reading, where I felt that the prose was far too obvious and telling and lacked a good deal of the charm that The Giver had. I felt a little underwhelmed, especially since my recent reread of The Giver left me so enamored.
I’m still intrigued to one day pick up the third book in this “companion series,” Messenger, which chronicles the events that occur after the end of Gathering Blue. But Gathering Blue itself is a great first read, though I think this reread has caused it to find its place among the volumes of books that are not necessarily meant to be digested a second time. I will continue to be fascinated by Lowry’s rich view of a dismal future, but I think I will have to continue to do so in new books rather than revisiting some of the old.
Books read: 57/100