Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just Finished: Never Let Me Go

Sometimes, particularly when I'm out in this big city with customs I do not understand, when someone has just ogled me because I look different, when everyone who walks past me at the grocery store assesses and comments on the contents of my basket I begin to dehumanize people. It makes me so mad that I think I'm better and that they are less worthy of compassion than people I like or that they are less intelligent than me. Not good. Not good at all.

Books like Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go do me a great service in reminding me how important it is to always give humans the benefit of humanity. I really really hated Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans, but the trailer to NLMG was so compelling that I picked up a copy, which was an unbelievably good decision.

The story is narrated by Kathy H., a student at Hailsham school somewhere in England. It doesn't take long to realize that there is something different about these kids and very subtly, about the world they live in. They grow up knowing vaguely that they are different from the outside world–they can't have children, they will one day become "carers" and after that "donors", which, not to spoil too much, means they will eventually donate their organs. That is what they were created to do.

I didn't quite trust Kathy at first, mainly because the narrator in Orphans was such a crazy, convoluted character who was completely untrustworthy. But Kathy's voice is so genuine and her voice so normal (along with her name) that she feels genuine.  Besides Kathy are her two best friends, Ruth and Tommy with whom she eventually leaves Hailsham and experiences a little of life on the outside.

The more they are on the outside, the more they come to question some of the things they've always been told, yet in many ways, they never break escape their imposed destiny. It's heartbreaking and it becomes clear by the end of the book how skilled Ishiguro is at creating his characters. All of them are could be in the room with you, so matter of fact and layered are they. Yet they don't always do what you hope they will, they leave you longing for something more.

In the subtle science fiction of Ishiguro's England, there is something unsettlingly real about this story because it addresses how society uses people. And how, when everyone is doing it, injustice can easily become the norm, even for those who are subjected to it. We have to look at individuals and remember they each have worth.

Read this book.

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