This book takes place in Sweden, sometime in the near future. Dorret just turned 50 and must give up her home and dog and be taken to the Reserve Bank Unit for Biological Material. All women at the age of 50 and men at the age of 60, who are deemed not needed by society much go to the Unit. You are considered dispensable if you don’t have children and / or don’t contribute greatly to economic growth.

Dorret is picked up in front of her home and brought along, with other dispensables , to the Unit. They are warmly greeted by staff and others that live there and shown to their apartments. Everyone on the Unit have their very own apartment complete with kitchenette. Later that day there is a welcome party, where Dorret and the other new people meet more of the other dispensables.

The new people get to have 4 days to get use to the Unit and take advantage of all of the luxury amenities before they must go to the lab to be given full physicals and orientation to what is expected of them. Soon they will become human lab animals and be enrolled in different studies and lab experiments. Eventually they with have to donate their organs to those deemed needed.

Dorret is lucky that she like physical exercise so much. In her first study all she has to do is exercise for 4 hours per day. She doesn’t have to take drugs or be exposed to chemicals etcetera. She also meets a fellow writer, Johnnas who she knew from the outside. They start dating and fall in love. She soon is resigned to her fate. However, as time passes and occurrences happen, she no longer feels content.

The night before Dorret’s first donation, a kidney she is quite scarred. Johnnas tries to comfort her and tells her that he is getting along fine with one kidney. She recovers from the surgery and then goes on to the next experiment. She had to take a pill three times per day. Luckily she was given a placebo because all the others who were given the real thing were permanently brain damaged and sent for their final donations.

I enjoyed this book. The translation to English is smooth and the writing is quite flood yet simple. I have two complaints however. The first is a small one. IMO, Holmqvist used to many similes. They felt quite contrived to me.

The other problem I have with the book is that , Holmqvist doesn’t describe what is happening around the rest of the world. Do all countries have this policy that makes people at a certain age and status become dispensable and therefore, get turned into biological material. Could Dorret flee to another country before her 50th birthday and be allowed to live out her natural life?

Despite my problems with the book, I am glad I read it. It would make a great book club book and great for an ethics debate. It is an enjoyable, yet horrifying dystopian story.


Thanks to Tony Viardo of Blue Dot Literary for a copy of this book.
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