Judy's Reviews > Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
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Aug 10, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, ethiopia, chunksters, 2011-reads, 100-books-to-read-in-a-lifetime
Recommended for: readers with medical knowledge
Read from October 24 to November 02, 2011 , read count: 1

I'm going to start this review doing something I've never done before and that is tell what I didn't like right away. The reason for this is because I want to spend the rest of the time enumerating many of the good points. Believe me, there are a lot of those!

The only two faults I see in Cutting for Stone is that there is a lot of medical jargon. I'm surprised at the number of people who have read the book and liked it considering the length. Fortunately, my ten years of working in the medical field came in handy.However, I could understand other readers either having to keep a dictionary handy or just giving up on the book. Secondly, as a friend pointed out, the characters stay kind of hazy throughout the book. This is hard to explain, because they each have definite personalities, but they don't come into clear focus. More about this later in the "good" section. Okay, the negative part is over. On to the good!

I read this in conjunction with two other GR friends and enjoyed the experience very much! Their insights and opinions contributed greatly. One thing we all agreed on was that Ghosh was a terrific character in this book. If I could wave my hands over a book and make a character come alive, he'd be one of the ones at the top of my list. What's not to like? So many times, in the process of trying to make realistic characters, I think authors lose sight of the fact that there are some people in this world who are truly good. Before anyone who hasn't read this book, thinks that Ghosh is a goody-goody, he's not. He had his faults. These come to light towards the end of the book, but they don't detract from him because the reader watches him grow into this unselfish, loving, caring person.

I loved the characters in this book. As a twin, the twin-think described early on in the book is so right on. Verghese does an awesome job of allowing the reader to see how the twins see themselves as ShivaMarion until the day one of them ventures into his own individual world.

There are some wonderful contrasts in this story that express differences in cultures and people.
Shiva vs. Marion; Ethiopia operating theaters vs American operating rooms;Ethiopia rich vs American poor; bad Ethiopian government vs even worse Ethiopian government; and so much more....

Sometimes, I read books and wonder where the title came from. Not this one. There were two instances in the book where the phrase cutting for stone was used. In the beginning, it seems that it is an Ethiopian term for surgery and then later in the book women needing fistula surgery carried placards reading "cutting for Stone" implying a need for Shiva Stone's medical expertise.

Since I love reading about other cultures, this book enlightened me in regards to what prison is like in Ethiopia. The living conditions, lack of medical care available to the majority of Ethiopians, the daily fear, corruption in everyday life are generally born by the common person.

Even though the characters (with the exception of Ghosh) didn't really have faces, somehow experiencing Ethiopia made that aspect of the book a minor complaint.

This is a book I'm glad I read.

4.5 stars

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Reading Progress

10/24/2011 page 66
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Comments <span class="mediumText">(showing 1-28)</span>




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message 28: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy I'm really liking it so far, Chelsea.


Chrissie Two lines I will never forget - one concerns what a doctor should whisper in a patients ear and the other, concerns how to meke God laugh.


message 26: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Chelsea, he is a good writer. I was impressed to see that he is a medical doctor in real life. I don't like it when author's write about something they don't really know. I'm getting a kick out of the "Missing Hospital" vs the "Mission Hospital" and how the name of the hospital changes frequently depending on who the latest donor is.

Chrissie, you have me curious......


message 25: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Thanks, Chelsea. I have added it. It does look very interesting. I love books about people helping others.


message 24: by Judy (last edited Oct 26, 2011 09:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Chelsea wrote: "Same here. It's on my WL at Amazon so who knows when I'll get it? :)"

Ha I know that feeling! Too bad Santa doesn't have Amazon elves that secretly fulfill the wishes of bibliophiles.


message 23: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa I'm quite interested in reading this - clearly you think it's a good one, Judy?


message 22: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Definitely, Lisa! If you like to get the feel of other cultures, what its like to be a foreigner in the US, etc. this is a good one. It didn't feel like 600 pages plus to me. One warning though, there is a lot of description of surgery and such, so go into it knowing that if you aren't familiar with medical terms you may need to keep a dictionary handy in order to fully appreciate what he is saying. I hope you enjoy it!


message 21: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue This is on my TBR too Judy. I'm looking forward to it even more now.


message 20: by Anne (new)

Anne Didn't know you were in the medical field. Now I want to read this one as well.


message 19: by Genia (new) - rated it 1 star

Genia Lukin The medical parts were the only good thing about this book. Brrr.


message 18: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa I was in my local second hand bookshop today and found this for $4!


message 17: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Lisa wrote: "I was in my local second hand bookshop today and found this for $4!"

No way! I'm so happy for you, Lisa. I got mine on sale at Target but it was much more expensive than that. Now there is another reason I want to visit Australia, to check out the second-hand book stores!


message 16: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Genia wrote: "The medical parts were the only good thing about this book. Brrr."

Anne wrote: "Didn't know you were in the medical field. Now I want to read this one as well."

Oh, Genia, no,no,no :) Ghosh was a wonderful character and all that wonderful Ethiopian culture.....

@ Anne: Always surprising you, huh? :)


message 15: by Anne (new)

Anne Yes, Judy, you are always full of surprises.


message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Chelsea wrote: "Genia wrote: "The medical parts were the only good thing about this book. Brrr."

I think the entire book is excellent!"


Agree, Chelsea.


message 13: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue I am looking forward to it. I understand he's written other works about his life in Tennessee (I think it was).


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Chelsea wrote: "Yes, it is a memoir about his practice in rural Tennessee. I plan to read it as well."

After reading Cutting for Stone, I hope I'll be able to fit the memoir in soon.


message 11: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue is there an emoticon for someone silently howling while tearing hair out due to weight of unread books pulling them downhill faster than ability to read.


message 10: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy Sue, I'm sure Mikki can come up with one. I have faith in her to do it. Perhaps, she can come up with one soothing the person whose experiencing this overwhelmed phenomena, too.


message 9: by Mikki (new) - added it

Mikki I got nuthin for an emoticon, but I'll work on it.

I so wish that I had read this with you in a group because it was one that I just couldn't stay with. I found the writing to be descriptive and the characters engaging but for some reason I kept putting the book down after a few pages.


message 8: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue I haven't read it yet Mikki. If you ever want to give it another try maybe we can do it in 2012.


Judy Sue wrote: "I haven't read it yet Mikki. If you ever want to give it another try maybe we can do it in 2012."

That's too bad, Mikki, I wish you could have read it with us. However, it sounds like you and Sue have a read-date. :)


message 6: by Mikki (new) - added it

Mikki Yes, Sue, let's see if we can work that out. You're reading A Fine Balance too, right?


message 5: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue Yes, I'm planning that too. Busy, busy, busy.


Kari As for the medical jargon, I really enjoyed how medically graphic it was. Although there were terms I wasn't entirely familiar with, I was able to understand them within the context. So even those without medical expertise can follow and enjoy that aspect of it.


message 3: by Kalliope (last edited Apr 04, 2012 05:01AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kalliope "Cutting for Stone" is a section of the Hippocrates Oath: "I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art".

And this is stated in the novel.


Judy Aha! Thank you for sharing that with us, Kalliope. So the two references in the book and the title are referring to the Hippocratic oath. Learn something new everyday.


Kalliope Yes, and of course the Surname "Stone" of three of the characters in the book are an echo of the Oath.


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