Lois Lowry has written many books that have stayed with me over the years and their messages still ring true to our current events. One in particular has been on my mind lately, and it’s different from her haunting dystopians or wrenching historical fictions. Gossamer, although short at around 150 pages, is a story we really need right now. While the outer story is about a tiny dream-giving creature named Littlest One, the inner story is about a lonely older woman who decides to foster a young boy suffering from an abusive father while his mother tries to get her life back together. Through Littlest, details are revealed about the woman and the boy, as Littlest and her mentor, Thin Elderly, work to craft sweet dreams for the humans and ward off the nightmare-bringing Horde. It’s a quiet, gentle story, but a powerful one.
In the beginning, Littlest runs everyone’s patience thin. She’s too curious, asks too many questions, touches too many things. Her kind have rules that she’s too keen on breaking. When she begins her training at the old woman’s house, the situation is tense. The boy, John, has a lot of anger and hurt inside him. He takes it out on the old woman and her dog, Toby. To craft dreams, Littlest collects fragments of his emotions and weaves them together, using her “gossamer touch,” as she calls it. It’s a difficult job. The woman tries to create a nurturing environment for John, but as time passes, he has more and more nightmares. But Littlest is gifted; she finds fragments in the least-expected places, like an old stuffed animal in the woman’s attic, and even in Toby, whom John grows to love. Thanks to the tiny dream-makers, the humans are able to overcome their pain and go on to happy endings.
Gossamer’s tenderness is the reason it stands out. The dream-makers aren’t mind readers. They don’t know instantly what will make humans happy. They have to sift through everything, even the heavy stuff, to find the good underneath. They’re not allowed to love or grow attached to the humans they’re assigned to, not allowed to feel emotions at all, but there’s no denying their jobs are an incredible act of love. Heck, I even cried when I reread it to write this post. Because even though they’re not allowed to love humans, they care for them. They work so hard to fight the Horde, not because it benefits them, but because it’s their job.
The world is in a pretty crappy state right now, and a lot of people are hurting. We need to fight against the awfulness and we need stories that reflect that. But we also need the quiet stories, the tender ones, the ones that bring tears to our eyes because the characters are filled with so much kindness. Gossamer is a sip of cool water in a desert of struggle. Littlest shows us that with a lot of patience, effort, and caring for others like it’s our job, we, too, can overcome the nightmarish Horde that seems to be our new reality.