I decided to group these two selections together, since they’re in the same series and I read them both fairly quickly. Gathering Blue and Messenger, by Lois Lowry. These are both companion books to The Giver. There is a final book to this series, Son, that I intend to read later.
I first read The Giver when I was in middle school, and I can honestly say that book changed my life. It was a healthy dose of perspective, toying with the idea of sameness and the reordering of societal constructs. Another toe dipped in dystopian fiction. I don’t think any book stuck with me the way that one has. I can distinctly remember where I was sitting when I discovered from Jonas what made the apple change. I audibly gasped at that revelation and discovered how a writer could make you feel, leave you in suspense, close your mind and watch it flower again. Lowry taught me to be a writer.
I kept this knowledge in mind when I read the successors to this book, and I didn’t expect that they would quite reach the bar I’ve set by the original. But Lowry is a brilliant author, and these books would be no exception to that gift.
Gathering Blue is disconnected from The Giver, and Messenger is the tie that binds them. Both books follow residents of a small community starkly different from the one represented in the world where Jonas grew up. The protagonists in these two stories are Kira and her unkempt, incorrigible child companion, Matt. Together, they challenge their roles in their village and discover horrifying truths about the order there.
The message behind these stories is hopeful with both Kira and Matt finding they have spectacular abilities they can use to better their own situation, that of others, and the structure as a whole. Readers will find that Matt specifically has a miraculous healing ability that will later prove to be instrumental to the story. In one passage, he is able to heal a frog and return it to the forest outside their village.
There are many political undertones to find here, and opportunities for reflection upon their mention. The Giver’s Jonas is able to establish a community of love and acceptance, with open borders to those seeking refuge. The townspeople begin to participate in a trading practice, and soon find they are exchanging precious elements of their lives for material possessions. Villagers are so consumed with their greed they begin to bargain with their families, their health, their very souls for the items they want. As a result of this practice, they become disenfranchised with their community’s culture and elect to erect a wall to keep others out. Sound familiar?
The hope is this: in spite of these circumstances, there is a select group who continue to fight for what is right. Through methods of quiet influence, they instruct and inspire.
Lowry offers the following passage as a reminder for those people…
“All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What! All my pretty chickens and their dam at one fell swoop?…
I cannot remember such things were,
That were most precious to me.’
The recitation of Macduff’s famous speech had reminded him of the woman he had spoken to on the path, the woman who feared for her lost children’s future. All my pretty ones.
Suddenly he felt that they were all of them doomed.
He had forgotten completely about his own power. He had forgotten the frog.”
There is still work to do.