The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blurb quoted from http://www.goodreads.com/
One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?
THE UNIT is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of an experiment, in which the “dispensable” ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the “necessary” ones. Ninni Holmqvist has created a debut novel of humor, sorrow, and rage about love, the close bonds of friendship, and about a cynical, utilitarian way of thinking disguised as care.
This is one chilling book. Such a realistically written view of a dystopian society where society is divided into two sectors - the needed and the not needed.
The needed are on the whole, parents or carers of others, indispensable, as some other persons well being relies on them and they have a "valued" place in society. The not needed are those who have remained childless, possibly following a career, not in a long term relationship, the single, the gay, the independent souls for whom life was enough without offspring.
Dorritt is one of the not needed, and she has reached the age of 50 - the age when women are compulsorily confined to the Unit, a facility for medical research and organ donation.
Finally she is needed - by strangers whose lives are deemed more valued than hers and whose illness requires an organ transplant or drugs which have been tested on another person.
Arriving at the Unit with some trepidation alongside other women of her own age and men of 60 plus, the age they are incarcerated at, she finds conditions there are excellent, she is housed in a smart apartment with all mod cons, much more upmarket than her shabby little home, yet with the added extra of multi security cameras in every room even the bathroom.
Provided with recreational facilities, entertainment and companionship of others in the same situation Dorritt begins to be lulled into her new life, taking part in trials and testing before any transplants of her organs begin and her journey towards the chilling final donation commences. Most rewardingly she begins to make some very close friends, relationships she didn't know she was lacking in on the outside yet which sustain and nourish her and one which leads to much more than she could have hoped for.
I was swept along with the story and characters, saddened - cried in places especially when her longing for her pet dog threatens to overwhelm her and friends she has come to rely on are suddenly no longer around.
It reminds me very much of Never Let Me Go and is thought provoking and heartwrenching yet leaves you with many questions. Highly recommended.