The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

The UnitImagine a place where the temperature is always perfect, where flowers are always in bloom, where food and clothing are abundant and free, where any creature comfort imaginable is yours for the asking. Sounds like a sort of utopia, right? There’s just one little catch in Ninni Holmqvist’s The Unit. This is the place where those who are deemed “dispensable” are brought to live out the last few years of their fairly young lives.

The Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material, or the Unit for short, is the final location for women over 50 and men over 60 who are single and childless. In this futuristic novel, men and women who do not produce offspring and who do not contribute significantly to the furtherance of the society (many writers and artists are included in this category) are made to contribute by acting as human guinea pigs and organ donors.

While doing so, and until they each make their “final donation,” they are de-motivated to rebel by living what would otherwise be considered an ideal life. When Dorrit arrives at the Unit on her 50th birthday, she is frightened but also resigned to this socially acceptable and expected fate. What she doesn’t expect is to find true love for the first time in her life, and the deepest of friendships among strangers.

This beautifully crafted novel is impossible to put down as it explores themes of human worth, the idea of dependence upon others, what makes some people more “worthy” than others, and above all, what it truly means to be needed.

Translated by Marlaine Delargy; OtherPress/Random House; ISBN 978-1-59051-313-2; $14.95.
The Unit: Discussion Guide

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