TK Waters has been an adjunct professor of religion at Western Kentucky University for six years. They have a master's degree in religious studies from Western Kentucky University and a bachelor's degree in English literature and religious studies from Western Kentucky University.
When a young girl living in a dystopian society loses both of her parents, how is she supposed to fend for herself? In a society that expels people with physical deformities, how can she survive attached to the twisted leg she was born with?
This is the life of Kira, the protagonist of Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue, who must learn how to make a living, how to protect herself, and who to trust in a society that seems out to get her.
Setting: Dystopian Future
Not too Distant Future
The time setting of the novel is unclear, but seems to be some time in the not-too-distant future. Despite this, the village that Kira lives in does not have any technology; the commoners have jobs like sewing, wood working, and hunting — jobs that provide needed supplies to the villagers. The novel is set in a dystopian society, meaning most things in the society are bad. Like most dystopian societies, the government is totalitarian, having complete control over all its citizens.
The Government Owns your Talent
As we discover later in the book, the government does not allow anything out of the ordinary. When Kira and Thomas, the carver who lives in a room in the Council Edifice near Kira, discuss their 'magic' projects and learn about Jo, the little girl who sings, and her gift for music, we realize all of these 'magical' parts of them and their talents are being controlled by the government.
Another problem with this dystopian society is that they get rid of anyone with disabilities, particularly physical disabilities. Kira was supposed to be left in the 'Field of the Leaving', the place where people from the village are taken to die, when she was born because of her twisted leg. But her mother fought to keep her, insisting on her intelligence and strong hands that would be good for work.
We find out at the end of the novel that many people left at the Field because of disabilities are taken away to another village that is almost entirely composed of people with some disability.
The Story of Kira
The plot of Gathering Blue revolves around Kira who is probably around fourteen or fifteen. Her father, Christopher, was supposedly killed by wild beasts before she was born. At the beginning of the novel, she is watching over her mother's body, Katrina, at the Field, waiting for her spirit to leave. Finding herself an orphan, Kira tries to figure out how to survive and decides to depend on her skill with fabric that she learned from her mother.
A series of events leads Kira to face the Council of the Elders, the leadership of the village, at court to defend herself. Despite Kira's hopelessness in this situation, the Council assigns Jamison, one of the Council members, to be her defender. He is not only successful in keeping her from death, but convinces the rest of the group to let Kira live in the Council Edifice and work on the robe of the Singer, a job her mother had done.
The Culture of the Village
The Singer is a revered figure in the village who annually sings a very long (multiple hours!) and detailed song at the Edifice that recalls the history of the world. The Singer wears a robe embroidered with pictures of the story he sings and carries a staff with carvings of the story to help guide him through.
Kira and Thomas are given the important task of repairing these accessories. While they work, they find themselves living in wonderful quarters. However wonderful their life may seem though, they eventually discover a girl, Jo, locked in a room on the floor below. The little girl is training, though very young, to be the Singer one day - but they hear her crying when people like Jamison are trying to force her to forget her own songs.
Trouble in Paradise
After finding Jo, Kira and Thomas begin experiencing and noticing other strange things. For instance, Annabella, the woman teaching Kira how to dye threads, dies the day after Kira tells Jamison the old woman had told her there were no beasts in the woods. Close to the time of the Gathering when the Singer sings the song of their history, Kira's young friend Matt and his dog Branch disappear, even though they had been visiting Kira daily. Finally, at the Gathering, Thomas notices a metallic sound - and when the Singer leaves, Kira realizes he has chains around his ankles.
Reunited at Last
Matt finally reappears, bringing with him two gifts for Kira: blue cloth, the one color she is unable to create, and a blind stranger wearing a blue shirt. The stranger turns out to be her father who lives in a community of disabled people. He reveals that he was not attacked by wild beasts on a hunt, as Kira had heard, but that a rival of his tried to kill him on the hunt.
Upon revealing the rival was Jamison, he tries to convince Kira to move to the community with him. She realizes she must stay at the Edifice to determine the future instead of letting the Council control it like they have done with the Singer.
With her parents, Katrina and Christopher, supposedly dead, Kira must struggle to survive and take control of the future of her community governed by totalitarian leaders in a dystopian society. Along with Matt and Thomas, she discovers some of the secrets of the Council of the Elders and explores the Council Edifice where they find Jo locked up. After working on the robe for the Singer to wear, she reunites with her father who turns out to have been nearly killed by Jamison and rescued by strangers at the 'Field of the Leaving.'
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