Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Book: Gathering Blue
Author: Lois Lowry
Publication: HMH Books for Young Readers
Price: Click the link
“After the death when there remains nothing except the ashes to whisp away in moron sky she sits looking at the wafting smoke and feels the leave-taking of her mother’s soul, the way one could feel a small whisper of breeze at night, felt the aloneness, the uncertainty.”
Katrina, the mother of Kira suddenly died due to brief and unexpected sickness, leaving Kira alone and helpless in this world.
Lois Lowry is an eminent American writer famous for her Giver Quarter and other novels. She deals with variegated and complex themes in her writings. From fiction to fantasy she roams so nimbly that readers get submerged in her mystic voice. Some of her important novels are:
A Summer to Die(1977)
Taking Care of Terrific(1983)
Us and Uncle Fraud(1984)
Stay! Keeper’s Story(1997)
The Silent Boy(2003)
Bless This Mouse(2011)
Like the Willow Tree(2011)
The Willoughbys Return(2020)
Gathering Blue (2000) by Lois Lowry is the second book in the Giver Quartet. The others are: The Giver (1993)
Kira lost her father long ago and her mother at the beginning of the novel. with her deformed leg and all the adversities and hardships, she struggled to survive in this cruel manipulative world.
The villagers took Kira’s house forcefully and forced her to leave. But Council of the Guardian who ruled that dystopian land kept Kira on some ground on interest. Kira needed a reason to prove her usefulness. And Jamison, a member of the Council spoke on her behalf. He did not allow their people to drag her to the field and let her die there under the claws of beasts. This was their trend of secret killing for the people who were against them or meant useless for them.
As she had inherited the art of embroidery from her mother so she meant useful to the council. On Jamison’s pleading, she was proved worthy to live in the society and was bestowed an important job. she had given the task of repairing and embellishing the Singer’s robe. The singer’s robe was very significant to carry out their annual programme where the singers from generations had to present the history of that land in their songs.
At first, Kira felt blessed and important. She was relieved from the apprehension of being thrown to the field by the beast. She tried to dedicate herself to the work that she was ascribed. She had a kid- friend Matt who helped her and often visited her in the castle where she used to live with his dog, Branch. Matt was also the informer. He was a very brave and witty boy who kept consistent vigilance on his surroundings and formed his own opinions. Kira befriended another friend Thomas in the new lodging. Thomas was of Kira’s age and was a good carver on woods. So he was assigned with the work of making wooden staffs. He worked very diligently with patience and tolerance. Unfortunately and mysteriously his parents also died suddenly in a fire.
To learn more about thread dyeing and weaving, Kira contacted another old woman, Annabella from whom she wished to learn the technique of dyeing the yarns.
Kira accompanied by Matt and Branch regularly visited her. In the course of their journey through the jungle, they used to hear many curious sounds. They assumed them as animals. But Annabella assured them that there were no animals. Kira, with the help of Annabella, collected every colourful thread except blue. Blue was not available there.
One day Kira heard crying in the castle. Being curious she with the help of Thomas discovered a little girl Jo. They learnt from her that her parents were also dead and she had a rare gift of sweet voice and singing power. She was taken by the Council and was forced to sing. Otherwise, she was punished.
One day when Kira disclosed to Jamison, the man who engaged Kira in the work of Council, that Annabella told her there was no beast except human beings Jameson along with others killed Annabella. This plunged Kira into great shock and confusion.
In the annual programme, she observed the singer, for whom she repaired and embroidered the robe, was chained. He was also a prisoner.
In the meantime, Matt was missing from the scene. He had fled away from the beating of his stepmother and promised to come back with a gift for Kira. On the day of the festival, he came back with a blue dyed cloth and Kira’s father.
It was a great surprise and eye-opening incident for Kira. Kira met her blind father Christopher with a blue shirt and came to know the secret autocracy of Council, under the cloak of a perfect disguise. Gradually Kira detangles all the mysteries behind the bars of Council. Kira came to know Jamison was her father’s enemy who tried to kill him for power. Jamison attacked Kira’s father and then left him wounded for the wild animals to devour him. But a stranger saved his life though he lost his eyes. He was taken to a new village populated by wounded and crippled persons. But their next generation was healthy.
Kira then realised all the specially gifted children who were working there were not orphans by chance but by conspiracy, cold-blooded murder.
” They with their stern faces had no creative power. But they had strength and cunning, and they had found a way to steal and harness other people’s powers for their own needs. They were forcing the children to describe the future they wanted, not the one that could be.”
Christopher told Kira to leave the village with him to save from the clutches of Council. But Kira decided to stay a bit longer. She could not deny her responsibilities. Though Kira’s father was sad he agreed. As a parting gift, he offered Kira the blue threads taken out from his shirt.
At the end of the novel, Matt told Kira about the village where every distinct human is given the same importance irrespective of their physique. And Kira promised to join him after her work will be finished.
Yes, Lowry means vivid photography. In every fiction of her, I find this tangible presence of nature working together with the living world…in compassion or antagonism.
“Night breeze and moonlight entered her room together. The moonlight slipped over the table in the corner and washed across the polished wooden floor.”
Even the description of woods and forest teeming with shrubs and undergrowth is captivating.
” Thick trees shaded the path and they could hear rustling in the undergrowth and unfamiliar cries of strange forest birds.”
Though totally a fictitious setting yet the village life that Lowry has presented here is universal in its association with every Village.
The noise of workers, the smell of wet mud, the noise of new structures, the charred smell of burning, the cacophony of villagers, shrill taunting of women, bragging of man, whining and whimpering of tykes all are too vivid in its description.
Here and there weeds grow untented. Little kids play on the ground and taste mud.
The Major Characters:
Death is a character here more prominent and elaborate in its power and existence.
” Bones would scatter rot and crumble to become part of the earth.”
She is the symbol of Power and good spirit. Despite being a crippled girl she stands against all the odds of life. Her father died mysteriously though the mystery was just the evil manipulation and conspiracy of the Council.
Her mother’s death is also the result of the same plot. But she wipes her tears and became ready to fight her fate. She is brave. Her dunkrick spirit supplies her with the dauntless vigour to stand against all the injustice. She is a seeker who is not afraid to know and unreveal the plots of malicious persons who wear the cloak of benevolence and authority.
When the village women stand against her and deter her to rebuild her own house she stands against them boldly,
” She appealed not to their sympathy because she knew they had none, but to their fear.”
She always remembered her mother who told her to take pride in pain.
The author has superseded her excellency in character drawing.
Even the little fugitive boy Matt is in her telescoping view. His childish nature sometimes attains deep maturity and sympathy.
” Matt flexed what passed for muscles in his scrawny arms.”
He is a truant boy but he is more than that. It is he who will one day vanish from the village and flee to a far village from where he will bring back Kira’s father.
Thomas is a wise character as well as Annabella. That’s why Anabela has to die…as she knows well the secrets that she hints and Kira disclosed to Jamison, a member of the council.
He is a mentor and supervisor from the Council of Guardians. He is a manipulative person with a cold-blooded villainous brain. He attempted to kill Kira’s father.
He is Kira’s father whom Jamison tried to kill by the beast before Kira’s birth.
She is Kirs’s mother who died of an illness. She was a brave woman who always inspired Kira in the adversities of life.
She is an elderly woman and she teaches Kira the process of thread dyeing.
She is a little girl who has a special gift of singing. She has brought to the Council when her parents died.
She is an evil woman who wants Kira dead to get her land.
Colour and thread is a symbol here. The colour blue is rare yet austere.
Kira’s father came back to Kira with the help of Matt and he stripped the blue threads from his shirt for Kira. Threads are too many powerful symbols here as colour.
Human beings are also acting as symbols as Matt is the symbol of an eye for Christopher, Kira’s blind father. Again Christopher is the symbol of Good that cannot be conquered by bad power like Jamison. Matt is again the renegade soul who stands against the conventional social regulations.
Kira is the definition of undaunted spirit and intelligence.
I like the strong narrative thrust with a mystic voice in this novel. I feel like reading it again and again. Kira is the heroine of the novel and she is the light of knowledge, of probity.
She is crippled in body but not in mind like the others who are crippled in mind. She stands as a contrast like darkness and light, vice and virtue.
The book is a great piece of literature with its variegated mode of literary flourishment. It is a story of motivation, of the struggle of the human journey for enlightenment. One can explore the novel from myriads spectrum of thought.
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