Friday, January 9, 2015

Gathering blue by Lois Lowry

Gathering blue is a companion novel for The Giver - however it can be read as a completely separate novel without having read The Giver first.  

Kira lives with the stigma of a twisted leg in a society where people who are injured, severely ill, or born with deformities are left in the field to die.  It is a brutal way of dealing with illness and injury, but it is the way it has always been and it was only because Kira's mother fought with her fathers support that Kira was not left in the field.  Instead Kira has been raised by a mother who cared for her, loved her, and nurtured her love of stitchery and weaving.  Kira spends her days helping in the weaving shed, collecting scraps and learning about weaving by watching and listening - waiting for the day when she too can learn to weave.

When her mother becomes ill and then dies Kira is left on her own in a society that doesn't want her, a society that has no qualms about throwing her out of her only home and sending her to the field to die.  When Kira stands up for herself against the town bully she finds herself not only wanted, but also treasured - her skill with stitches matches and in some cases excels her mothers and an important task is about to land on her shoulders.  Her task is at first a great and cherished responsibility, but over time Kira starts to understand more about her task, her role in the future of the village, and some disturbing insights into how she ended up in her role in the first place.  As she gains in skill and confidence, Kira will be forced to face a horrible truth and decide what she will do with that truth.

I really enjoyed reading The Giver, partly because it was such an easy to read story with multiple levels, but also because it takes a look at a future world that is a very subtle dystopian - which contrasts sharply with some of the more dramatic approach of other authors.  Gathering blue had a lot to live up to, following on from the amazing read that was The Giver, and Lowry has delivered a story that is unique but also complimentary - a different kind of rotten apple, but the same kind of insidious and creeping feeling of "wrongness".  

Kira is a strong character to follow, she is very human and aware of her flaws, but there is also something so hopeful and human that makes her an interesting and engaging focal point for the story.  It is always a risk to hang a novel on the viewpoint and experiences of a single character, because if your audience fails to connect with your character then your story may fail before it has even truly begun.  Through Kira's eyes we discover a fractured world where everyone is in it for themselves, and where her close relationship with her mother is something of a rarity, and where the loss of a parent can be a blessing or a curse - depending on your circumstances.  

Without wanting to ruin the story and the unfolding discovereis, I can say that there is a very "genuine" feel to Gathering blue, a sense that this is a very real story in a future that hasn't happened yet and I am looking forward to getting my hands on Messenger so I can see what happens next as the stories begin to converge.  This is a timeless classic that deserves to be discovered by readers of all ages and levels, and I hope that young readers will read the whole series rather than just The Giver.  This is one of those rare series that can be enjoyed across the reading lifespan - 'tweens will find the story engaging and not too challenging, teens will enjoy the complex interactions between characters and sniffing out the conspiracies, and adults (like me) are likely to enjoy the richly imagined world that is absorbing and beautiful and full of characters that are crying out for you to connect with them.

If you like this story then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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