Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review - Gathering Blue

About three years ago I finally got around to reading The Giver. It had long been recommended to me and I really did enjoy it. Since then, I had been told that The Giver was the first book in a trilogy, so I sought out the other books in the series. Book number two is Gathering Blue.

The trilogy label seems slightly misplaced as Gathering Blue has no immediately definite relationship to The Giver. Both books are set sometime in a post-apocalyptic future. Both look closely at the relations and conventions in a small village with certain rules and regulations used to manage the people and expectations of the village. Each village has an overall utopian mindset but as the pages turn, it becomes evident that the society is more and more dystopian.

In Gathering Blue the society we are presented reminded me a lot of Native American tribal communities or the small townships in American colonial periods. In this village every person has a specific role or duty. There are weavers, farmers, hunters and gatherers. The society recognizes growth in age, wisdom and maturity through the use of a person's name. When a person is first born, they spend the first day or two with no name while they "wait for their spirit to fully arrive in the body." They spend the next many years as a "tyke" with a single syllable name. Adolescence grants the children a second syllable to indicate their growth. Once they reach adulthood they are given a third syllable and those few who live to old age become 4-syllable people.

Our main character is a two-syllable girl named Kira. She was born with a twisted foot and her father was already dead. In the society, this defect should have sentenced her to immediate death. However, when the officials came to take Kira (then "Kir") away from her mother, her mother sensed Kira's strength and stood up to the men and defied their rule to take her away to die. Kira grew in strength and talent but her hurt leg was always an issue. Her mother told her to focus on her pain because it gave her strength. This becomes an interesting theme in the book.

At the beginning of the book, Kira's mother has died and Kira has just finished mourning. As she returns to the village she has a confrontation with other villagers who want Kira to be kicked out of the village so that they can use her land for their own purposes. Kira musters her courage and stands up for her right to be taken before the great Council. There, she is appointed a defender who points out that "exceptions to the rules can be made."

The title from the book comes from Kira's role in the village and later under the guidance of the Council. She becomes a Threader. She is responsible for sewing repairs into the great Robe that tells the society's history. Each thread must be dyed in appropriate vibrant colors. Of which, Blue is the hardest to find.

Over time, Kira grows in curiosity about the ways of her world as she sees and hears things that make her doubt, or at least wonder, the overall goodness of the society.

As I mentioned initially, this book is not directly related to the story of The Giver. However, it brings out a number of similar concepts and themes. It challenges the reader to think about the importance of art and presentation in a society. It asks readers to consider the stories and histories as presented by those who write it. And it puts forth the moral to always stand up for what you believe to be right, even when it is hard or dangerous to do so.

I enjoyed Gathering Blue for many of the same reasons and in many of the same ways as I enjoyed The Giver. While the ending of The Giver was ambiguous, it could be argued that it was sad and didn't instill a lot of hope. Gathering Blue ends with a few surprises and a sense of struggle to come. The third book, Messenger directly continues the story of Gathering Blue so I'm hopeful that we'll see some resolution that was missing in The Giver. Even without a definitive resolution, I feel like this book gives enough good material to think upon that it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel. I certainly enjoyed it.

4 out of 5 stars

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1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

i did not realize it was a trilogy as well...huh...seems i have been missing out...