Saturday, September 12, 2009

114 (2009 #39). Gathering Blue

by Lois Lowry,
read by Katherine Borowitz

Another dystopian novel for ages 10 and up, this one is set in a post-“Ruin” world, where most of the people have regressed to primitive living, and children with physical flaws, like the heroine Kira, are supposed to be left out as babies for “the beasts” to claim. Kira, recently orphaned, is about to lose everything she has—including her life--to fellow villagers. Then the community’s leaders, due to her talent in embroidery, choose her to live in the one building, the Council Edifice (which, from its description, appears to have contained a church) that withstood the Ruin. She is to work on mending and adding to the decorations on the ceremonial robe worn by the "Singer" each year when performing the story of the Ruin at the village “Gathering."

In her new home, Kira meets Thomas, the carver a few years older than herself, working on the Singer’s staff, and Jo, the little girl being trained to replace the aging Singer some day. Like the similarly-aged Jonas in Lowry’s Newbery-winning The Giver, Kira, with the help of a rambunctious “tyke” named Matt, discovers the secrets of her society and makes a choice that will change her life, and perhaps those of the villagers.

This book has some messages about the role of artists in society. Lowry creates an interesting culture where the number of syllables in a person’s name increases as s/he ages. The Ruin Song has some telling words (pages 170-172 in the hardbound edition):
Burn, scourged world,
Furious furnace,
Inferno impure-…

Ravaged all,
Bogo tabal
Timore toron
Totoo now gone…

...“I believe it tells the names of lost places.”
… and if you look carefully, you can identify them.

I listened to the audiobook because a previous user had said there was a problem with one of the cassette tapes (there wasn’t) and I needed to test it. Actress Katherine Borowitz reads the book quietly and calmly, matching the detached tone of the story, showing emotion only when expressing Kira’s thoughts or memories of her mother, or the rough Fen dialect of Matt.

This book is linked to The Giver, but only near the end, and it isn't necessary to have read it before reading Gathering Blue.

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