The Unit

Publisher: Other Press
"I enjoyed The Unit very much....I know you will be riveted, as I was." —Margaret Atwood, @margaretatwood

“Echoing work by Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood, The Unit is as though-provoking as it is compulsively readable.” —Jessica Crispin, NPR.org

Ninni Holmqvist’s uncanny dystopian novel envisions a society in the not-so-distant future, where women over fifty and men over sixty who are unmarried and childless are sent to a retirement community called the Unit. They’re given lavish apartments set amongst beautiful gardens and state-of-the-art facilities; they’re fed elaborate gourmet meals, surrounded by others just like them. It’s an idyllic place, but there’s a catch: the residents—known as dispensables—must donate their organs, one by one, until the final donation. When Dorrit Weger arrives at the Unit, she resigns herself to this fate, seeking only peace in her final days. But she soon falls in love, and this unexpected, improbable happiness throws the future into doubt. 

Clinical and haunting, The Unit is a modern-day classic and a chilling cautionary tale about the value of human life.

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

“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.” —Washington Post
 
“Orwellian horrors in a Xanadu on Xanax—creepily profound and most provocative.” —Kirkus Reviews

 “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.” —New Yorker
 
“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
 
“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
 
“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.” —Time Out Chicago
 
The Unit raises issues of love, gender, freedom, and social mores through the perspective of how we assess an individual’s contribution to society…Holmqvist’s ability to invest the reader in both the story and the characters is exceptional. It is a book you hesitate to put down…The Unit deserves a wide readership.” —Blogcritics.org


“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
 
“An exploration of female desire, human need, and the purpose of life.” —Publishers Weekly

“The message is bold if not on the nose: If you don’t fall into a classic nuclear family, then your value as a human are the spare parts you can give those who do contribute to traditional family structures. The book’s main character, a writer named Dorrit, is forced to think about the meaning of her life. She’d had a lover, but he wouldn’t leave his wife; she’d birthed art, but never a child. Holmqvist’s writing is clear and precise…the clinical tone contributes to the The Unit’s eeriness. The Unit itself is a place of luxury—amenities include a library, a cafe, immaculately manicured gardens—but it feels as much like home to Dorrit as the promotional photos of an upscale condo. Holmqvist’s is a book of quiet cruelty, and perhaps the most harrowing twist of all is that the world outside the walls of the Unit—one with married couples, one with children—seems even worse. In that way, The Unit’s strength is uncovering beauty in bleakness.”—GQ.com

“Ninni Holmqvist’s The Unit, originally published in 2006, offers a shrewd, timely exploration of gender…The novel has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, but where Margaret Atwood’s classic focuses on procreation, Holmqvist’s novel feels broader, holding both capitalism and traditional gender roles under a harsh light. Dorrit is honest about her life, and she wonders whether the freedom she had in her youth was worth the price she pays now. Any woman — young or old — will relate to her plight.” —Washington Post