Book Review: Gathering Blue
Lowry, Lois. Gathering Blue. Houghton. 2000.
In what might be described as a companion to The Giver (1993), Lowry once again brings readers to an alternative civilization and introduces a young person who will be entrusted to pass on its history. This time, though, she will have the opportunity to plot its future, too. Kira is lame and a recent orphan, so she is not surprised when she is brought before the Council of Guardians to justify her existence. Unexpectedly, she finds a champion who brings her to live in the Council Edifice, where her talent for embroidery and her intuitiveness make her the choice for an important job–repairing the robe of the Singer, who each year sings the history of the world, with the events meticulously embroidered on the robe he wears. At first Kira cannot believe her luck. She makes a friend, Thomas, who carves the Singer’s wooden staff, and learns the delicate art of dyeing her threads from a crone who lives outside the village. She is even able to maintain her friendship with the sassy, loyal urchin Matt. Slowly, however, Kira begins to see that all is not right in her world. Lowry is a master at creating worlds, both real and imagined, and this incarnation of our civilization some time in the future is one of her strongest creations. The coarseness and brutality of the people, the abundance of the land’s natural resources, and the intricacies of the society make this setting as rich as Kira’s most glorious colors. There is richness in the characters, too, all of whom are detailed with fine, invisible stitches. Only the final bit of plotting falters: too much is disclosed too quickly, and answers to questions about how Kira will achieve her objective–to create a kinder future as reflected by her stitchings on the robe–are left as hints (perhaps this bodes well for a sequel). Lowry has clearly addressed the issue of what happens when a young person becomes disillusioned with society; it would be equally interesting to know how she thinks worlds evolve into better places.
– Ilene Cooper