To give a brief definition, "unwinding" in this book is the process of taking a person apart to use all of his/her body parts. In the society that Shusterman has created, parents or the state can decide to have their teenagers unwound between the ages of 13 and 18. The adolescents are told that they aren't actually dying because their body parts will continue to live on in other people who need those parts.
Yes, it's a strange concept and no, I don't believe our society will embrace this procedure. And yet, it's not completely bizarre. We immediately discussed the idea of abortion and if it is better or worse for the child to be conscious of the decisions to be terminated. Is it better for kids to know that they are being unwound or should it occur before consciousness does? I must say, some of the students became very incensed about the topic and soon we were wondering when a person is a person or when the soul is created.
“I agree that we don’t have a soul until someone loves us, just like the character said in the book.”
“No, we have souls as soon as we have bodies. We have souls before we’re born.”
“How do you know?”
“If the heart beats, that person is alive and has a soul.”
"Which would make abortion wrong."
"It is wrong."
Aiieee. And that is where the conversation went. I try very hard to not direct the conversation unless it is completely off task, and I really enjoy listening to the students develop arguments, take a stance, and get into a debate, but at some point, we had to agree to disagree on this particular topic.
The book is fantastic for triggering conversations and getting to societal issues that are relevant and real. The teenagers in book club loved the book and yet, found it unsettling. It made them think about current practices in our society, and it made them think about their own behaviors. That's why we love reading - it brings us closer to life.