Washington Post // Larry’s Kidney by Daniel Asa Rose

Who Needs One?

Sunday, May 31, 2009 

Larry’s Kidney

By Daniel Asa Rose. 305 pp. $25.99

“Larry’s Kidney,” a stranger-than-fiction memoir by Daniel Asa Rose, serves as an enjoyable testament to the lengths to which we sometimes go to help family, even when doing so is a terrible, terrible idea. The absurdly long subtitle — “Being the Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant — and Save His Life” — should come with a spoiler alert. It’s not giving too much away to reveal that the plot involves a guy named Larry, who somehow persuaded his long-lost cousin, Daniel Rose, editor of the literary magazine the Reading Room, to leave his wife and kids behind and accompany him to China. There Larry hoped to get an illegal kidney transplant and meet his bride-to-be.

The ensuing adventure is the stuff of slapstick comedy, as Rose and Larry navigate the Chinese black market, the dodgy medical establishment and their own relationship. It’s curious and occasionally tense, especially when after all that trouble Larry threatens to call off the operation if it’s going to be too expensive. Though their odyssey was a success in the end, Rose makes the moral of the story clear: “Don’t try to go to China for a kidney. We got the last one.”

6/17/09: A blog about bioethics called this “another favorable–and utterly amoral–book review.”