Kim's Reviews > Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
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May 31, 12

bookshelves: heartsick, holy-shit
Recommended to Kim by: Jill Mcdougall
Read from April 13 to May 31, 2012


I’m not feeling that well today. I don’t know if it’s from yesterday’s chicken or the fact that I cried copious amounts of tears finishing up this book. I even got the paper wet and if you know me… you know what that means. (view spoiler)

I wouldn’t have picked up this book on my own. I had to be led to it, and that’s okay because sometimes I can walk in circles and create a rut and start to write about nasty fan-fiction that isn’t worth a tinker’s curse.

The story is set in Ethiopia during the reign of Haile Selassie. It tells of two brothers, born conjoined at the head (not for long, forceps and a big ol’ knife took care of that) to a nun and a drunk, anxiety ridden surgeon. Both parents abandon their children (one via death, the other via drink and an exit visa). The boys are raised by two other doctors at hospital appropriately misnamed Missing.

The story is a tender one. By which I mean that it bruises. It gives us love and takes it away, it shows us our faults and how we can so easily take simple beautiful acts for granted. It’s about growing up and falling down. It’s earnest and in that, I find it so beautiful.

There is one passage that held me:

“It was a tale well known to children all over Africa: Abu Kassem, a miserly Baghdad merchant, had held on to his battered, much repaired pair of slippers even though they were objects of derision. At last, even he couldn't stomach the sight of them. But his every attempt to get rid of his slippers ended in disaster: when he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail...

'One night when Tawfiq finished, another prisoner, a quiet dignified old man, said, 'Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He'll never escape.' The old man laughed, and he seemed happy when he said that. That night the old man died in his sleep.

We all saw it the same way. the old man was right. The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don't sow, becomes part of your destiny...

In order to start to get rid of your slippers, you have to admit they are yours, and if you do, then they will get rid of themselves.

Ghosh sighed. 'I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did in Kerchele. The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don't. If you keep saying your slippers aren't yours, then you'll die searching, you'll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”


I am still learning to walk on my own, I think I just discovered my slippers and they still feel too big and a bit scratchy. I’m afraid I won’t have a destiny and that sends me headlong into a panic attack. How vain is that?

I have to remember…. Own It.
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Mary I adored this book. So beautiful. I didn't want it to end.


Marty Selnick This was definitely in my top 5 of 2010. Good review. :-)


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