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The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

06th February 2010

Dorrit is 50 years old, self employed, unmarried and childless.  Her society has labeled her as “dispensable.”  Dorrit and others like her are required to submit their bodies to physical and psychological experiments, drug tests and even organ donations.  When their usefulness as experimental subjects has passed, the final donation is scheduled and the dispensables are euthanized.

Dorrit is resigned to living out her remaining days in the luxurious facility which houses the dispensables.  Although she misses her independence, privacy, the outdoors, and her beloved dog, she begins to make new friends, works on her writing and tries not to think about the future.  Then she falls in love with Johannes, and everything changes.  Although society claims Dorrit and Johannes are dispensable, the couple now have everything to live for.

This book is haunting.  It describes a society that is horrifying both for its brutal definition of “usefulness” and for its similarity to our own.  Abortion on demand, mercy killing, rationed or unaffordable health care and slurs against persons with disabilities are ordinary occurrences.  How much longer before we take the next step and begin writing our own definition of “dispensable persons?”