Gathering Blue is the companion/sequel to Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which has recently been made into a movie, and a right good one at that. The day after we saw The Giver, I read Gathering Blue. It’s an easy read, only about 200 pages long.

The book centers on a different community, almost mirroring that in The Giver. Here, the weak are cast aside publicly. When someone is sick or dying, they are taken to the Fields, where they are left to die. The idea behind this society is not to get everyone to be the same, but rather to enhance and further class distinctions, make sure the poor stay poor and make sure the wealthy stay wealthy and powerful. The Giver featured a community where there was no pain and no suffering (and inherently no happiness—there was simply no emotion), and Gathering Blue centers on a community where everyone suffers and deals with pain.

Enter Kira, our protagonist. Born with a twisted leg, she only survived because of the fame of her father who died before her birth. Her mother dies when Kira is young, probably about 15 or 16 years old. Shortly thereafter the Guardians of the Village bring her to the palace because she has a special talent. She has a gift for weaving and needlework, and they need her for a project that is much bigger than her.

This book made me reflect on the way we often treat others. Sometimes we only find value in someone when we observe that they are really good at something. All too often, however, we fail to realize the good that there is in every person. Just because I don’t have a talent for writing, carving, or needlework, doesn’t mean I’m not worth anything and that I don’t have a talent. I might be the best chef you’ve ever met in your life, but if you’ve pigeon-holed your vision to the point that you only find value in someone with the skills or abilities that you;re looking for, then I am nothing to you.

This is a big issue that people run into while dating. I’m a Mormon, so I’d know that Mormons tend to focus a lot of efforts on encouraging dating and marriage. This is because Mormons believe that the ultimate happiness that can be achieved on this earth will be found in happy families. It starts young. Young women, ages 12-18 are encouraged to write down lists of qualities that they hope to find in a future husband. They are encouraged to keep this list and make sure that any man they end up dating matches up to the list that they made 8 years ago. If he doesn’t, he’s not “the one”.
They can’t get married until they find a man who is righteous and virtuous, an Eagle Scout, served a full-time two-year mission (preferably outside of the United States), wants 5 kids, is 5’10” and has nice teeth with no cavities… the lists go on and on.

DISCLAIMER: The above scenario is based on cultural standards and not official doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But brush twice a day and avoid cavities.

If you’re looking for a husband who is a football player, and you’re only willing to marry a man who is a football player, then you’re probably going to marry a football player. If the best father in the world happens to not play any sports, then your children are going to miss out on having that awesome dad. The big problems start when you add more criteria and/or limitations. If he has to be taller than you, strong enough to lift you, a good dancer, perfectly honest, an Eagle Scout, environmentally conscious, and 100% active in his church. You’ve just ruled out a ton of perfectly good guys. Guys that were good enough.

I recommend this book because it’s a good learning experience. Read it, and try to understand what you would change about society if you were only valuable enough to have that chance.