Saturday, January 10, 2009
Gathering Blue: Review
Book: Gathering Blue
Author: Lois Lowry
Category: Young Adult
Setting: Earth, Post-Apocalyptic
Series: Companion to The Giver
Challenge: 2009 Young Adult Challenge
I've never read Lois Lowry's much acclaimed and often criticised The Giver, but knew that it wasn't necessary to do so before reading Gathering Blue. Now, after finishing Gathering Blue, I wonder if it would have been a better book for me had I read its predecessor first.
In a post-apocalyptic world there lives a girl named Kira. Having been born with a twisted leg, Kira is not much use to her people and would have been killed at birth like all children born with deformities if not for her mother. But the mother who protected her all her life has now died and Kira is left orphaned in a harsh society where only the strong survive. Considered useless because of her leg, Kira is sure that she will be taken to the field and killed, like every other useless person before her. But Kira has a gift that saves her from certain death: She can weave thread beautifully.
Her skill gets her noticed by high ranking members of the of the Council of Guardians who need Kira's talent for the special purpose of weaving the future of their society into the ornate singers robe. Kira is taken in by the Council to do just that. In the Council's Edifice, with a room of her own, a bath to wash in and hot food to eat, Kira feels as though she has found a new and rewarding life. But there is something very wrong happening within the walls of the Council. Dangerous secrets are unfolding before Kira's very eyes and mysteries are lurking, waiting to be solved. Kira soon realizes that she must uncover these mysteries; for the future of her world depends on it.
Gathering Blue was an easy, straight forward read on the surface, but when a deeper level of meaning is explored, the story raises some scary questions. In a lot of ways this book reminded me of Lord of the Flies. Both stories explore a society of people that have been isolated from any human contact other than themselves. Because of this they are forced to make their own laws, and because laws must be enforced, a hierarchy is formed. Both books also share a similar dark undertone that depicts humanity in its rawest form.
At times I was appalled by the rawness of this society. The people treat each other horribly. Children are slapped, hit and beaten by their mothers, men turn on each other at the drop of a dime, mothers fight their own children over a scrap of food, they live in squalid, vile conditions and harbor unrepentant hatred toward those that are different. But when I took into consideration that this way of life was all these people knew. That even a little show of weakness would mean their death, I became less appalled and more intrigued by the lack of civilization.
As Kira settled into life in the Edifice and more secrets were revealed the story became less simple and more intricate. I wanted her to find out what was going on, because I, too, wanted to know. But the knowledge is revealed slowly, sometimes too slowly because I found myself figuring the important things out before Kira did instead of at the same time, which became a little annoying. This brings me to Kira's character. For the most part I connected with Kira, she had a quiet strength that made her character easy to root for. But there were times when I thought that to have lived in this society all of her life, Kira was too trusting of those around her. She knew that after her mother died no one had her best interest in mind and that they would want her dead. She even went to great lengths to outwit those who were after her in self-perseverance, so, that she turned around and blindly believed in a different group of people in her society just rang false for me.
Overall, Gathering Blue was a good story. It was a short read that I breezed through in two sittings and gave me plenty of food for thought. I did get the sense that that if I had read the books in order I would have enjoyed this one better. I will go back and read The Giver in hopes for a greater sense of understanding of the world that has been created here, then follow that up with Messenger, the final book in this trilogy. For this thought provoking book, grade B-.