Gathering Blue is a young adult-social science novel, written by Lois Lowry and released in the year 2000. It is a companion book to The Giver (1993) being set in the same future time period and universe, treating some of the same themes, and is followed by Messenger (2004), and Son (2012) in The Giver Quartet.
The central character, Kira, who has a deformed leg, is orphaned and must learn to survive in a society that normally leaves the weak or disabled exposed to die in the fields. In the course of the book, she begins to learn the art of dyeing thread different colors, except for blue, which nobody in her community knows how to make. She also learns more about the truth of her village and the terrible secrets they hold.Plot
The main character, Kira, who has a deformed leg, is recently orphaned (her mother abruptly dying from unknown sickness and her father years past dying on a hunt with the Hunters by being killed by The Beasts) and must learn to survive in a society that normally leaves the weak or disabled exposed to die in the fields.
Kira needs a reason for the Council to keep her in the village and not take her to the Field, which is certain death at the hands of The Beasts. A member of the Council, Jamison, defends Kira during the trial, much to Kira's surprise. He convinces the Council that Kira has a gift for embroidery. She is found worthy of life in their society in the trial and is given the task of repairing the Singer's robe.
She is taught how to further solidify her talent from a much older woman, Annabella. Annabella continues to teach Kira how to create dyes for different shades and hues for her threadwork. To Kira's dismay, she learns that there is no ability to create the color blue for the threads she will be using. Eventually, to Kira's surprise, Annabella tells her that with her own years and knowledge, she knows much of the society's history and even goes so far as to say that there really are no Beasts, contrary to the society's beliefs. Kira in unsure what to think of that revelation or what Annabella really means by it.
Along the way, she becomes closer friends with a younger boy, Matt, and makes a new friend in her neighborhood at her new home, Thomas. A boy around Kira's age, Thomas is also an orphan and has lived there since he was very young because of his abilities. It is learned that he is the woodworker who maintains and improves the Singer's staff, which, in turn, helps the Singer remember the history of the society as he sings the lengthy song. Together, they help each other bring out the best in their talents, preparing for The Gathering. Jamison, the Guardian who fought for her life in the trial, becomes somewhat of a mentor in her new home. He is kind and instructive but also very stern.
Kira slowly learns that her life is less than idyllic. Thomas hears crying in her building, and they discover another orphan, a very young girl, Jo, whose ability to sing is magnificent; she is kept with intent to eventually replace the current Singer. Jo is scolded and punished if she does not sing. Kira secretly befriends her and sneaks into Jo's locked room at night to comfort her. Kira realizes that the three do not have as much freedom as they had previously thought. Annabella abruptly dies, and Kira is left to continue her work. That and the secluded life that a very young Jo must live help Kira decide to find out the truth about her society.
On the day that the Singer sings the Song at the Gathering, Matt is nowhere to be found. At the Ceremony of the Gathering, she notices that the current Singer has the staff that Thomas has worked so hard on and is wearing the robe that she repaired and enhanced. She realizes that his feet are chained, injured, scarred, and bleeding and so that he is essentially a prisoner, kept for this event because of his talent. The implication is that she and the others with Gifts, which the Counsel has saved for their jobs, are also prisoners. Their gifts are in control of the Council, by tenants who, without any creativity of their own, seek to control the three, to provide a future that they envision.
After a long absence, Matt returns with a blind man from the distant Village of Healing. The man wears a blue shirt, something that Kira's people are unable to make. It turns out that he is the father who Kira thought was dead, Christopher. It is revealed that he had been attacked years earlier by another hunter, who was jealous of his immediate potential of being a member on the Council of the Guardians. First, he was beaten and then had his face stabbed and so lost his sight. Being taken to the fields to die with the other rejected ailed, injured, and dying citizens of their society, he was rescued by some people he could not see and took him to the Village that he now lives in. It is made up of injured and disabled people who help one another, rather than bicker and fight for their lives as Kira's does. Matt excitedly explains that they know the way to make blue threads and brings plants that will allow Kira to do the same.
After a long heartfelt reunion with his daughter, Christopher reveals that he has enemies on the Council. The one who maimed him years before was none other than Jamison. He tearfully apologizes for taking so long to return to get her. Because of his memory loss caused by the beating and his loss of sight, he had no way of finding her. Matt had gone looking for a way to make blue for Kira, stumbled upon Christopher's Village, and explained where he came from. Events began to roll forward in such a way that Christopher could again reunite with his daughter.
Kira begins to wonder if her mother's sudden death and the deaths of the two other orphans' parents were actually by the Council's hand to acquire the young, gifted children so that it could mold them into creating the future that it wants.
Christopher cannot stay and is forced to return, and Kira decides to stay in her own community to continue to embroider the Singer's robe and help improve the society she lives in. Matt is designated as the 'eyes' that will help Christopher find his way back. It is implied that Thomas, Kira, and Jo, being the new holders of the Gifts, have the opportunity to change the cycle of their society and to improve the conditions in which they live vastly by using their gifts to influence the actions of their people.
At the end of the book, Matt tells Kira that in the Village all are important, and all are married, which she would have to do without in her society in which the injured and impaired are seen as worthless wastes of space. He continues to tell her about a boy from the Village who has blue eyes, is around her age, and is not injured in any way (alluding to Jonas from The Giver) in the hope that will entice her to come with them. Kira declines to go with them to the Village, but it is decided that she will follow once her work in her current task is eventually finished. In the meantime, Matt will travel back and forth between Kira and her father Christopher, being called their Messenger, relaying their messages.Reception
The book appeared in the ninth spot on the Children's Books version of The New York Times Best seller list on October 8, 2000, and again on October 29, this time in the tenth spot.References
- ^ "Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet)". google.ca.
- ^ "Children's Chapter Book Best Sellers" The New York Times. October 8, 2000.
- ^ "Children's Chapter Book Best Sellers" The New York Times. October 15, 2000.
- ^ "Children's Chapter Book Best Sellers" The New York Times. October 29, 2000.
- ^ "Children's Chapter Book Best Sellers" The New York Times. November 5, 2000.
- Lois Lowry's web site