The Unit

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I went through a phase at the beginning of the year where all I wanted to read was dystopian fiction (after that phase I was super-interested the French Revolution, so…) Think Handmaid’s Tale/Hunger Games kind of stuff. Because I’m a cheerful sort. The Unit stayed with me for a long time. Basically, if you’re a single woman, without children or a job in a “progressive” industry at the age of 50 (the age for men is 60 because they are considered useful for a longer time, of course.) you check into a lovely place called the Reserve Bank Unit. You are given a clean, nicely furnished apartment, you are well-fed with lots of recreational opportunities. Oh, and you are a guinea pig for medical research and also have to donate your organs, one at a time, until the “final donation.” Cool.

The Unit

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.