Becca's Reviews > Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
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Jun 21, 11

bookshelves: medicine, favorites, literature, world-literature
Read from May 23 to June 21, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

I will try to find the words to fully capture the love that I have for "Cutting for Stone." I have kept Verghese on my list of clinical superheroes ever since I read his memoir, "In My Own Country;" however, I had been hesitant to read "Cutting for Stone" because, in my experience, physician penned memoirs lead only to disappointment. Verghese; however, is as much a master writer as he is a master clinician. Although "Cutting for Stone" is a medical story (highlights include attribution to his characters the first living donor liver transplant, the discovery of caffeine for apnea of prematurity and others), it is not foremost a story about medicine. Instead it is an semi-coming of age epic about how people form connections to each other, push others away in the pursuit of perfection and ultimately about self-actualization through realization of human bond.

Despite such lofty ambitions, Verghese never lets idealism or heavy-handedness overpower the fact that "Cutting for Stone" is indeed a novel. His characters shine - each individuals, each with amazing strengths - the cunning Ghosh, the brilliant, fierce Hema, the sharp, quick-witted Genet and the genius but alien Shiva and the loyal, logical Marion - his language is evocative and beautiful and his settings are picture-perfectly described.

A review of "Cutting for Stone" would be incomplete without at least a glancing mention of it's treatment of medical education. What struck me the most was Verghese's characterization of the martyrdom that residency entails as being a defense mechanism. His depiction of the selflessness with which residents treat patients as being a form of indulgence was a little uncomfortably honest. That being said, what "Cutting for Stone" will be exalted for in years to come is the decency with which it treats international medicine graduates. The treatment of such graduates by American medical students is borderline racist, with training programs being judged harshly on the number of such trainees enrolled. It is common for IMGs to be treated with disdain, and Verghese's candor in describing the differences that they experience when they train compared to the training environment faced by American graduates will not soon be forgotten.
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Quotes Becca Liked

Abraham Verghese
“We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot. I grew up and I found my purpose and it was to become a physician. My intent wasn't to save the world as much as to heal myself. Few doctors will admit this, certainly not young ones, but subconsciously, in entering the profession, we must believe that ministering to others will heal our woundedness. And it can. but it can also deepen the wound.”
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese
“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.”
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese
“I welcomed my slavish existence as a surgical resident, the never-ending work, the cries that kept me in the present, the immersion in blood, pus, and tears -- the fluids in which one dissolved all traces of self. In working myself ragged, I felt integrated...”
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese
“I could see that the almost mystical aura of this legendary surgeon -- the single-mindedness, the dedication, the skill -- was mere surface. The surgical persona was something he had crafter to protect himself. But what he had created was a prison. Anytime he strayed from the professional to the personal, he knew what to expect: pain.”
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese
“Do they listen?"
He held up a finger. "Every year one does," he said, ginning, "But that one makes it worthwhile. Even Jesus only did twelve. I try to get one a year.”
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese
“All my ghosts had vanished; the retribution that they sought had been exacted. I had nothing more to give, and nothing to fear.”
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone


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