Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is the loosely linked sequel to The Giver. Set in the same world, this story is set in another village that has survived post-apocalyptic collapse of larger society. Instead of the peaceful, well-ordered, cooperative world that characterized the first book, Gathering Blue is set in a dirty, hardscrabble village, where violence and betrayal are commonplace.
The story centers on Kira, a young woman with a deformed leg. Normally, she would have been left to die at birth because of the deformity, but her widowed mother fought for her, and so she was allowed to live. Now, with her mother dead from disease, and her cottage burned to prevent the spread of the illness, she is alone with no one to protect her or help her survive the harsh future she faces except for a little dirty boy from the Fen, named Matty. Luckily, she has a Gift. She can embroider beautifully. What she doesn’t know is that her Gift is going to be her way out of the harsh violence of her childhood, and into the much more controlled, hidden violence of the political elites. The main part of the story focuses on Kira’s adventures in the palace, and her growing friendship with Thomas, a young man who also has a Gift. Both of them are isolated and forced to work for the Council of Elders. As they discover some of the darker secrets hidden behind the polite façade, Kira and Thomas have to decide where their allegiances lie and how they can save the society they live in.
Gathering Blue does a wonderful job of creating interesting characters, and placing them in a setting that is ripe for conflict. The problem with this book for me is that the story ends just as the conflict is fully set up. There is no resolution to the plot at all. Instead, we see Kira make a decision that something has to be done to remedy the injustices that are the foundation of their village. And then the book ends. This is a problem typical of middle books in series, but this volume faces an additional challenge in that it is so loosely linked to the first volume that it doesn’t feel like it is advancing the overall story at all. Also, I am wondering what services the political system is providing to the villagers that the villagers uphold a class of elites that seem to be doing absolutely nothing for them.
I enjoyed reading Gathering Blue. Lowry does a wonderful job of creating characters you can root for (and against) and creating interesting settings. The problem is that there is no meaningful resolution to any part of the action. This lack of resolution, similar to the ending in The Giver, left me feeling irritated, however. I hope the action advances meaningfully in the next book.