Literature: Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue, written by Lois Lowry, is a story set within the universe of her earlier YA novel, The Giver. It is part of the The Giver Quartet.

The novel is set in an isolated and backwards village led by the Council of Guardians. Its inhabitants are mean and only come together at the annual Gathering, in which the village's Singer sings a song telling the history of human civilization. Protagonist Kira was born with a deformed leg and was kept alive despite her Social Darwinist society due to the intervention of her influential mother. Upon her mother's death, her neighbors attempt to have her killed, but she is saved by the Guardians, who single her out for her exceptional embroidery skills. Kira is to become the next Threader — the person who will embroider the Singer's robe with the past, present, and future. Things get more complicated when Kira realizes that the Guardian's motives might not be as pure as they appear, and Matt discovers a utopian village previously alluded to in The Giver.

Unlike The Giver, which takes place in a futuristic society, Gathering Blue takes place in a more obviously After the End technologically regressed society.

This book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Very few parents are shown as positive. Neglect, physical, and emotional abuse are all used against "tykes" and there is little sympathy for them.
  • After the End: The Ruin, which is explained to be a series of wars, and natural disasters. The book implies that it is not a single event, but a recurring event throughout history.
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey!: A group of survivors worship a cross recovered from a Christian church. They don't know what Christianity actually was composed of before the apocalypse, but they do know that the cross had some importance.
  • Awesome, but Impractical / It Will Never Catch On: The latter trope is subverted when Kira, while in the Council of Edifice's building is exposed to indoor plumbing for the first time. She finds it interesting, but thinks how it is simply just easier to go down to the river to do bathroom activites.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Matt.
  • Body Horror: The description of the chains around the Singer's feet, and their disgusting effects on him.
  • Book Ends: The book begins with Kira sitting with her mother's body, saying goodbye to her and looking at an uncertain future. It ends with her saying goodbye to her father whom she thought was dead and looking forward to helping to create a new future for her village.
  • The Chosen One: Kira, as well as Thomas and Jo.
  • Continuity Nod: A boy looking like Jonas in another community is mentioned to Kira. However, some copies of The Giver, which have interviews and notes with Lowry, mentioned the reader is allowed to believe or not believe if this book is in the same universe as The Giver.
    • Confirmed in the third book of the series "Messenger", where Jonas is in the village that Matt (called Matty) and Seer live in. He is the Leader of their town. It is also implied he finds a love interest in Kira as well through the story.
  • Crapsack World: Unlike in The Giver, where the crap sack is more subtle, Gathering Blue's community is at a medieval tech level and inhumane to their fellow citizens.
  • Eternal Recurrence: The Gathering is the time when everyone is told how the world ends, rebuilds, ends, rebuilds, and ends over and over again, and will continue to do so in the future.
  • Free-Range Children: Due to the Abusive Parents, many children go around doing whatever they want. Matt in particular actually left his village and was gone for days to get something for Kira. Of course, he never went back home.
  • Future Imperfect / Shrouded in Myth: The Christian Cross is simply known as "The Worship Object." Information about it has been lost, but the citizens know that it was special to their ancestors, so they bow to it out of sheer respect.
    • Also, the Council of Edifice's building was formerly a church.
      • More like a church based hostel or some other living area as the rooms each had an attached bathroom complete with a bath.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Vandara has a scar that goes down her face and uses it to boast how she fought off a beast. Subverted with Christopher, Kira's father.
  • Kid Hero: Kira is around fifteen when the story starts. Matt is even younger, around eight.
  • Meaningful Name Meaningful Rename: Citizens, when born, have only one syllable in their name, but as they grow older and more established, they gain additional syllables. (eg. Ann —> Anna —> Annabell —> Annabella). They actually refer to their ages in terms of syllables in their names.
  • Mood Whiplash
  • Offing the Offspring: It is briefly mentioned that Vandara was accused of having killed one of her children by forcing him to eat oleander. Many in the village still believe that she did it, although she was let off because there was no evidence.
  • Parental Abandonment: Kira, whose mother dies in the opening, Thomas, and Jo.
  • Plucky Girl: Kira.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: Unless the elders knew far more than they let on, it would be impossible to have workable indoor plumbing complete with hot water without electricity and a source of pressurized water.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Level 3. Women can't learn how to read or write. Kira is even afraid to watch as Thomas writes the names of plants she is narrating to him for fear she will be accused of learning how to read.
  • Stealth Sequel: Subtle, but a boy Kira's age with bright blue eyes is described by Matt in the utopian village, hinting that Jonas finally reached Elsewhere. The two novels connect in Messenger.
  • Tagalong Kid: Matt for Kira.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Extremely prevalent. Kira, who is tasked with embroidery, is female (while Thomas is tasked with woodcarving). She learned the art of embroidery from her mother and the art of dyeing from an old woman, Annabella. On a societal level, it's explicitly the women who weave cloth for everyone.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Jamison.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Kira, Matt, and Thomas. Gender-reversed with Kira, Thomas, and Jo.