Winter Solstice 2003
Organ Donor by Matthew Warner
The Organ Donor
By Mark Worthen
Yin and Yang.
That's what this book is all about. The cycles of yin and yang. Warner actually lays these cards on the table in chapter one, as one of the characters announces, just before his execution, "The motion of nature is cyclic and returning ... Its way is to yield, for to yield is to become." This book itself cycles between the yin of action and the yang of thoughtful introspection, the yin of historic mythology and the yang of Chinese history.
So having tipped his hand like this in the very beginning, you'd think you'd see the ending coming a mile off.
Not by a long shot. Not me, anyway. It took me completely by surprise
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Paul Taylor is the brother of a diabetic, Tim, whose kidneys are failing in a big way. There is no telling how long he has to live, but he's already been on the donor list for a long time, and Paul and his mother are starting to lose hope.
Enter an old friend of their father's, the mysteriously rich Xiao Han, who says he has a typed kidney from a dead peasant. After discussing and arguing the ethics for quite some time, Paul and Tim go to China for the replacement organ.
In China, however, Paul is caught in an explosion in marketplace. In the hospital, he receives a replacement bone, a skin graft, and a new cornea.
And both their lives change forever.
Because the donor of the new kidney, he cornea and the bone is still alive, a mystical creature who has been alive for millenia, and he wants them back.
Here begins a rollercoaster ride that will keep you reading and won't let you up till you get to the end. It's a gripping tale which Matt accomplishes the task of the writer admirably: he tells a hell of a story while teaching something about China, bringing to the fore a social problem you may not have known much about, and above all, making the reader think.
I really have to hand it to Warner, because this book must have taken months to research. There's information here about medicine, Chinese history, philosophy, culture, medicine and geography that can't be available to the average schmuck without spending months on the web and a few good hours in the library of Congress. I'm a bit of an Asiaphile myself, and I've got to say I learned something from this book.
But it wasn't the information, layered into the text like rock strata, but the characters that kept me coming back. I wanted to find out what happened to Paul and Tim and the rest, and the threat of the beast, the mystery to be uncovered, and the sheer franticity of Paul to make someone believe him kept me on the edge of my seat.
Yin and yang.
Information and character. Presented in such a cyclic, interwoven manner, you don't even realize this is more a story until you close the book and realize you've got a picture of China in your head, a map of culture on your soul, and a greater understanding than you had before.
It's a great read and it made me think.
Yin and yang.
I couldn't ask for more of any book. Go get it.
Four bites of five..
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Winter Solstice 2003, Updated February 26, 2003
BLOOD ROSE is Copyright © M. W. Worthen.