England, the 1990’s, only it’s an alternative universe, where clones are created to become organ donors for the “normal” population. The story is told by Kathy H who is 31. She reflects on her childhood at Hailsham School. It seems similar to a boarding school and is run by “guardians.” Limited information is shared with the students regarding their purpose and future. Kathy discusses her friendships with Ruth and Tommy, and they sound like relationships between kids in any school. After completing school and a period of time at “The Cottages,” students are trained to be “carers”, a case manager/social worker sort of worker, who provides support to the “donors” following each donation. Most donors “complete” or die after three, certainly four donations. Kathy becomes reconnected with Ruth and Tommy as an adult and works as carer for both, falling in love with Tommy and trying with him to get a rumored short term deferral from further donations. The thought that plagued me throughout the book was “How can they be so complacent, why don’t they just escape?” It never seems to occur to these individuals, who have a special bond with each other, but are repulsive to “normals” who know what they are.
This book was named one of the best books of the first decade of the 21st century. It is a quick read and it is a little surprising that it is not included in the science fiction category.