The Unit

Publisher: Other Press
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.

READ AN EXCERPT

It was more comfortable than I could have imagined. A room of my own with a bathroom, or rather a suite of my own, because there were two rooms: a bedroom and a living room with a kitchenette. It was light and spacious, furnished in a modern style and tastefully decorated in muted colors. True, the tiniest nook or cranny...
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READING GUIDE

1. Dorrit can be described as very obedient. She submits to her fate by going to The Unit without protest and does not seem naturally inclined to buck authority. What personality traits or life circumstances do you think causes a person to be obedient? Conversely, what leads one to question the rules of the...

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PRAISE FOR

Named one of the Best Novels of the Year by the Wall Street Journal

“Echoing work by Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood, The Unit is as thought-provoking as it is compulsively readable.” --Jessa Crispin, author of Why I Am Not a Feminist

“A haunting, deadpan tale set vaguely in the Scandinavian future…Holmqvist’s spare prose interweaves the Unit’s pleasures and cruelties with exquisite matter-of-factness…[Holmqvist] turns the screw, presenting a set of events so miraculous and abominable that they literally made me gasp.” --The Washington Post

“This haunting first novel imagines a nation in which men and women who haven’t had children by a certain age are taken to a “reserve bank unit for biological material” and subjected to various physical and psychological experiments, while waiting to have their organs harvested for “needed” citizens in the outside world… Holmqvist evocatively details the experiences of a woman who falls in love with another resident, and at least momentarily attempts to escape her fate.” --The New Yorker

“Holmqvist handles her dystopia with muted, subtle care...Neither satirical nor polemical, The Unit manages to express a fair degree of moral outrage without ever moralizing…it has enough spooks to make it a feminist, philosophical page-turner.” --TimeOut Chicago

“This is one of the best books I’ve read over the past two years...Thought-provoking and emotionally-moving, The Unit is a book you’ll be discussing with others long after you’re done reading it.” --Orlando Sentinel

"Chilling…stunning…Holmqvist’s fluid, mesmerizing novel offers unnerving commentary on the way society devalues artistic creation while elevating procreation, and speculation on what it would be like if that was taken to an extreme. For Orwell and Huxley fans." --Booklist

"Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this novel imagines a chilling dystopia: single, childless, midlife women are considered dispensable. At 50 the narrator, Dorrit, is taken to a facility where non-vital organs will be harvested one by one for people more valued by society; she knows that eventually she’ll have to sacrifice something essential’ like her heart. Dorrit accepts her fate–until she falls in love and finds herself breaking the rules." --More Magazine