The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams
Who are you living for?
Interests/Topics: science, genetic profiling, social justice, destiny, free will, morality
Curriculum Connections: English, Biology
A number of years ago I lived near a family who had a terminally ill teenage daughter. A bone-marrow transplant could possibly provide a cure for the leukemia killing her, but despite an extensive search no donor matches were found. Time was running out.
Desperate to save their daughter’s life, the parents made a decision that rocked the medical world: they would attempt to have another baby for the sole purpose of creating their own bone-marrow donor. Miraculously, the middle-aged couple conceived and gave birth to a little girl with the exact bone-marrow match as her sister. The stars had aligned. One daughter was born to save the other.
Shiloh, in The Haven, leads a fairly content life. Although Shiloh has been identified as a carrier of the Disease, the enclosed compound of Haven Hospital and Halls keeps her, and the rest of the Terminals, safe and sound. They get plenty of food, fresh air, exercise, and sleep to ensure optimal health, and the high walls surrounding the grounds protect the non-infected population from contagion.
Shiloh has lived at Haven Hospital and Halls as long as she can remember. In fact, she doesn’t remember much other than her daily routine. Her life is normal except for her occasional lack of breath due to a missing lung. She considers herself lucky, though; other Terminals have had limbs amputated thanks to the Disease. At least she still has both arms and legs.
On a rare impulse one night Shiloh spits out her dose of Tonic, the medicine all Terminals take to keep the Disease at bay. The Doctor will be furious if he finds out that Shiloh broke protocol, and she immediately regrets the rash act. But as the effects of the medicine slowly leave her body, Shiloh realizes that something is very wrong at the Haven. Why are people protesting outside the high walls? Why aren’t Terminals allowed to form close relationships with anyone? Why did someone break into the hospital to “save” her?
And as the last of the Tonic seeps away, Shiloh has the most frightening thought of all: What if there is no Disease?
“More than twenty Terminals had been in and out of surgery since my own operation. Twenty Terminals in about a year. The computations were easy. Nearly two per month….None had seemed ill….The Disease, they told us, was silent, never showed its head, seemed instead to be hidden in the lab reports that Dr. King brought with him. And there was this: I knew for a fact, I had been healthy. I hadn’t felt ill. There were no hints. No indication of trouble. Then, without warning, my name was called.” (13-14)
“Note to all Staff
Behavior to Look For:
Fraternizing with the opposite sex
Too much speaking
Open talk of rebellion
Any and all of these (and similar) behaviours MUST be reported to school officials.”
“Abigail cleared her throat. ‘We’ve found some things out, Shiloh. About the Terminals here at school and other places, too. Around the country, around the world. Some of the hospitals are like our place. Others have terrible conditions for Terminals….’ She waited and then said, ‘We’re being used. All of us here. We’re being used in awful ways.’” (82)
“Here was my truth, the Terminals’ truth, no matter if we had souls or didn’t: We were the sum of our body parts.” (130)