I first read The Giver during elementary school. My mom made me read it. But I loved it, though I admit that I found it disturbing. A world that is perfect in every way… each family is happy and loving and good-looking. Yet, and I’m sure I remember correctly, all the deformed people are killed or sent away. There was no place for them in that futuristic paradise. My 9 year old mind couldn’t quite comprehend what the author wanted to say, except that the kind of thinking that the people in the novel had was bad. My 14 year old mind could have understood more fully.
But both minds always wondered what had happened to Jonas. Recently, I was on Absolute Write’s forums and someone mentioned that Lois Lowry had written two books to follow The Giver.
Whoa. Why didn’t anyone tell me? It would have saved a lot of worry and stress and sleepless nights wondering what had happened to poor Jonas!
Gathering Blue was published in 2000, about six years after the publication date of The Giver. The story runs along the same vein. Kira is a teenaged girl living in a futuristic village, a village that leaves the maimed or weak for dead in the wild. Her mother has just died, and her father had died years ago. “Taken by beasts,” they had always told her. To make matters worse, Kira had been born with a twisted leg. According to the rules of the village, she should have been left out to die when she was born. With her twisted leg, Kira will always be unable to work in the fields or contribute to society through hard labor. Or so they say.
Though the villagers allowed Kira to live, they openly despised her. Her only friend is a young boy named Matt.
After a disagreement with a villager woman, the Council of Guardians summons Kira to be judged. However, she realizes that they have plans for her. Her almost magical talent, that of weaving and creating patterns with a needle and thread, can be put to good use. But Kira finds that things aren’t as perfect as they outwardly seem. What she finds will change her world forever.
We actually don’t find out what happens to Jonas until the book after this one.
I found this book a quick read. Lowry crafted the story so well that I could see it in my mind. It’s deeply horrifying in parts, like the part where Kira finds that the Singer, a man deeply revered and honored in the village, has his legs chained together all the time. Whenever he walks, a trail of blood follows because of the chains digging into his flesh. However, Lowry emphasizes in the novel that in spite of the horribleness of such a society, hope exists.
At the same time, the writer raises some important concerns. What kind of world or society do we want to have? What kind of society are we building right now? If we’re not careful, we could head into a society where deformed infants are left to die and adults with broken limbs are put to death quietly. People who are unwanted are murdered. All in the pursuit of perfection — is that what we want?