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Cutting for Stone

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A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel - an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.
(front flap)

560 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Abraham Verghese

15 books4,982 followers
Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP, is Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Born of Indian parents who were teachers in Ethiopia, he grew up near Addis Ababa and began his medical training there. When Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed, he completed his training at Madras Medical College and went to the United States for his residency as one of many foreign medical graduates. Like many others, he found only the less popular hospitals and communities open to him, an experience he described in one of his early New Yorker articles, The Cowpath to America.

From Johnson City, Tennessee, where he was a resident from 1980 to 1983, he did his fellowship at Boston University School of Medicine, working at Boston City Hospital for two years. It was here that he first saw the early signs of the HIV epidemic and later, when he returned to Johnson City as an assistant professor of medicine, he saw the second epidemic, rural AIDS, and his life took the turn for which he is most well known ? his caring for numerous AIDS patients in an era when little could be done and helping them through their early and painful deaths was often the most a physician could do.

His work with terminal patients and the insights he gained from the deep relationships he formed and the suffering he saw were intensely transformative; they became the basis for his first book, My Own Country : A Doctor's Story, written later during his years in El Paso, Texas. Such was his interest in writing that he decided to take some time away from medicine to study at the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1991. Since then, his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Texas Monthly, Atlantic, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Granta, Forbes.com, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Following Iowa, he became professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in El Paso, Texas, where he lived for the next 11 years. In addition to writing his first book, which was one of five chosen as Best Book of the Year by Time magazine and later made into a Mira Nair movie, he also wrote a second best-selling book, The Tennis Partner : A Story of Friendship and Loss, about his friend and tennis partner?s struggle with addiction. This was a New York Times' Notable Book.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 27,841 reviews
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,349 followers
February 9, 2017
The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.

It is statistically improbable that I will read a book as good as this one anytime soon. Although I’ll admit it starts off slowly, I found that the depths of this novel are revealed as the protagonist’s life unfolds. Something of a bildungsroman, Cutting for Stone focuses on a pair of twin boys who are born and raised in an African missionary hospital. Their story combines elements of Indian and Ethiopian language and culture, third world medicine, sexual awakening, political revolution, foreign travel, and of course, and easily my favorite, emotional and complex family drama. Written in a style of prose that allows one to forget the author is even there, Verghese really captures what it means to be human—that the frailty of life isn’t distinct from the strength of the spirit, but that one complements the other. ShivaMarion’s story is about as moving as it gets, and I’ve got a few tear stains on my Kindle to prove it.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,497 followers
November 1, 2010
But it was only now, near the end, and far too late, that the pieces suddenly - dreadfully - clicked into place. Like a long Tetris piece slamming down, making a whole block of mystery blink and vanish. Only now did he realize what suddenly seemed so obvious: everyone who had suggested this book to him – every single one – was a middle-aged woman. This book…it was about the importance of family.

A wave of cold horror washed over him.

It would take months of porn and comic books to counteract this book’s effect. Months.
Profile Image for Sara.
101 reviews125 followers
February 10, 2009
Many readers will tell you that Cutting for Stone is the epic story of two conjoined twins fathered by a brilliant British Surgeon and an Indian Nun. And it technically is. Narrated by Marion the first born twin we are told of every influence on his and his brother’s existence. More than the story being told however, the novel is an accurate portrayal of life in all it’s cruelty and wonder.

The twin’s mother dies in childbirth and their father abandons them minutes later. They are raised in a missionary medical hospital in Ethiopia. As they grow up they are forced to face their past and futures re-defining the meanings of destiny, love and family.

While reading you will notice the fine points are painstakingly researched as the story is and packed full of medical jargon and situations along with vivid descriptions of Ethiopian culture and history. My only reservation in recommending the book is the novels “hard moments” as almost every imaginable tragedy touches these brothers, and medical operations and oddities are very detailed. Squeamish readers may want to skim some of these passages.

All in all, this novel is elegantly told, superbly structured and the most original piece of fiction I’ve read in years. It’s deserving of every positive adjective I can throw at it; marvelous, and thrilling. You will want to own and lose yourself in this book again and again. Buy it now, and thank me later.
Profile Image for Ayaz.
5 reviews17 followers
December 4, 2013
“My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts. They realize that no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.” (Cutting for Stone, pg 434)

More than a few people who’ve read the novel mentioned to me that they wanted to discontinue reading the novel. And I understood what they meant, when I finished reading Cutting for Stone this last weekend.

I had trouble with the point of view. Unlike Frankie in Angela’s Ashes, Marion, the protagonist, is an adult all along, and mono-tonal. Mr. Verghese doesn’t give Marion the privilege of his own voice. Marion is smothered by adult language, betrayed by the medical jargon, which is overbearing ultimately, as well as weak writing—this last piece was a surprise to me. The idiom in some places puts me right in 2011 America, when in fact, we’re in Ethiopia for most part of the novel—mid 1900’s onward. Also, an overuse of similes was irritating, and kept dragging the writing down, but most importantly, the reader can’t get to Marion’s soul, because weak language confounds the reader. Moreover, the shifting points of view are shoddy, and in fact, weaken the intensity of emotion that existed briefly when Dr. Thomas Stone is trying to deliver the twins. By the way, this was the most poignant scene of the novel, and then the novel degenerates slowly and painfully for the 100’s of pages to come.

Probably the lowest point of the novel is the coincidence (you’ll find far too many coincidental meetings and appearances etc) of Genet and Marion meeting in the US. Marion is set up to be a romantic by the author, and had saved his virginity for Genet. But then enjoys a grotesque intercourse, which involves urine, blood and vaginal fluids. Marion is so turned on that he goes at it again. If I didn’t feel terrible for Genet by then, I certainly did at that point. I am not sure that Mr. Verghese wanted Marion to be narcissistic and sadistic (“I grabbed her shoulder and pulled her to me hard. I smelled her fever, and the scent of blood and sex and urine. I came again, pg.598)—but Mr. Verghese came pretty close here.

But the novel had unraveled for me earlier. Mr.Verghese simply has the hardest time developing female characters. They play stereotypical roles, except for Marion’s mother, who had the potential to be very interesting as a developed character, but the author, again “uses” her as a plot device (wish not to reveal how for those who’ve not read the novel yet). Hema, his adopted mother also has wonderful potential of becoming an interesting character, but remains flat throughout. The male characters dialogue is a notch better, but the dialogue throughout the novel is tiresome, and most characters sound like each other. There is some good dialogue from Marion’s adopted father, Ghosh and Dr. Deepak, but not enough to save the novel.

And poor Marion, remains a prisoner to a very brilliant individual as a novelist in Mr. Verghese, who tries desperately but fails to develop a nuanced protagonist--maybe the reason people wanted to put the novel down. I think if the novel was cut into half, it may have worked for me, given the good writing would have blossomed and caught the attention of the reader. Here’s one other passage I liked:

“ In America, my initial impression was that death or the possibility of it always seemed to come as a surprise, as if we took it for granted that we were immortal and that death was just an option.” (Cutting for Stone, pg 486)
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,414 reviews491 followers
February 26, 2021
Recently in San Francisco I attended a reading by Abraham Verghese, who has written my favorite book of the year: CUTTING FOR STONE. I'd gotten it from the library, and after @150 pages was so in love with it that when I heard he was going to be at the store, I returned the library copy (there's a huge line waiting for it), and bought a copy just to have the pleasure of his signature. We actually had a little chat after the reading, while he happened by on his way to his car. He asked why I'd chosen his book in the first place, and I didn't have the answer, which occurred to me (like esprit d'escalier) until after he'd left: it's not the initial choosing of a book, but the journey the author takes you on that is important.

I think that Tom Wolfe's I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS was the book that changed my life, because when I was about 50 pages in, I realized I couldn't and therefore wouldn't finish that book despite having purchased it in hard cover. Life is too short, and besides, it doesn't honor an author if you are resenting him with every page just to reach the end. So, I actually don't finish some of the books I open. There aren't enough days left in my life to squander on books I'm not enjoying.

All that being said, I wish I'd thought of that when talking with this soft spoken, gentle man, and had been able to relay to him that the journey he was taking me on was so wonderful, I didn't care if I ever reached the destination. It is a vibrant, living story peopled with individuals to care about, sensual writing with more than a dash of humor and a frisson of suspense.

What I did have the chance to tell him was this: I was furious with an imbicile in the audience who, if you can actually believe this, whined "Why did you have to make it so long?" I told Dr. Verghese that it reminded me of that scene in Amadeus, when the emperor complains "there are too many notes," and Mozart, puzzled, says "It has just the right amount of notes."
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,719 followers
November 4, 2020
"Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?"

This book is both brilliant and breathtaking. I absolutely loved it. Abraham Verghese is not only a distinguished physician, but an extremely talented writer. The prose is some of the very best I have encountered in a novel, and the story itself is hugely compelling. Verghese takes his time setting up the story and introducing the cast of characters that will be thoroughly developed throughout the course of the novel. I gobbled this stuff right up! It’s a book about home and belonging – both to your country and to your loved ones. Family is defined by those people to whom we feel the greatest connection, whether through blood or through the fulfillment of our greatest needs in life, including love, loyalty and dependability.

In Addis Ababa, near the soaring heights of the Entoto Mountains in Ethiopia, Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born to an Indian who is both nun and nurse and a British surgeon working together within the walls of Missing, a missionary hospital. Literally joined at birth, the twins also share a bond of brotherhood and loss that will be both strengthened and painfully tested throughout their lives. As the boys grow, they also learn the practice of medicine, both in its clinical form as well as its very compassionate service to human beings. This knowledge is gleaned through the most admirable of characters, Hema and Ghosh. I loved these two, but in particular Ghosh who is possibly one of my favorite literary personalities of all time! There is a plethora of medical descriptions here that I found quite fascinating. One is not required to have a medical-related degree to enjoy this book, but a curiosity and appreciation for the field of medicine will go a long way here. I have to issue a little word of warning here for those that may feel a bit squeamish when presented with some of the more graphic details of medicine. Although I may have flinched once or twice, that didn’t stop me from reading!

Due to family social ties to some very powerful forces within Ethiopia, Marion and Shiva find that they are not exempt from the effects of the political upheaval during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. When catastrophe lands on their own doorstep, the twins will learn even more about the true meaning of family. I found that I learned quite a lot about Ethiopian history and current events and it was all very illuminating. I gained a better understanding of the geography of this African country and absorbed some very vivid images like this one:

"I stepped out to the lawn. I remember the air that night, and how it was so brisk that it could revive the dead. The fragrance of eucalyptus stoking a home fire, the smell of wet grass, of dung fuel, of tobacco, of swamp air, and the perfume of hundreds of roses – this was the scent of Missing. No, it was the scent of a continent."

Heartbreaking and uplifting, Cutting for Stone is a treasure that I highly recommend. Medicine, foreign cultures, politics, coming-of-age, abandonment, betrayal, and love are all elements woven together to construct a real masterpiece of writing. The ending was both poignant and astonishing. I loved it.

"The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not."
Profile Image for Petra on hiatus, really unwell.
2,457 reviews34.4k followers
February 10, 2017
Update I didn't like the writing of this book at all, but now, after reading the Verghese's foreword to When Breath Becomes Air and being unable to get over the florid and verbose writing of that either and other people agreeing with that, I just wonder how so many people enjoyed the very similar writing in this book.

I tried to read this book several times but it didn't hold my attention at all. I just couldn't get into it.

I realise that I am in a minority among friends for not swooning over the very brilliance of this book and the writing, oh the writing... but I didn't swoon. I slept.
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
506 reviews1,488 followers
May 29, 2020
Breathless is how I’m feeling right now as I close this book. Magnificence is in the power of this story and the storyteller.

I was introduced to Verghese briefly as he wrote a prologue to the exquisitely written memoir , When Breath Becomes Air. Another of my favourites.

Yet, I was ill prepared for the visceral attack on my senses reading this epic story that takes place in Ethiopia.
A story of doctors and the lives of becoming one. The story of undeniable love for parents who weren’t biological, for Siamese brothers separated at birth. Just an awe inspiring story of life. It’s hardships; it’s gifts. It’s culture.

It made me feel alive and exported. A respect for the struggles in a 3rd world country. Respect for dedication of reaching difficult goals. Of accepting unconditional love even when it seems to be against you. And forgiveness at its core.
A story of brothers, fathers And mothers.

A gift is what this feels like.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
785 reviews12.5k followers
January 27, 2023
My favorite parts of this sizable tome were, of course, the medical jargon and the lyrically gory descriptions of diseases and surgeries.

I guess, by now I have finally and irreversibly crossed that thin line between sanity and medicine.

Yes, all the descriptions of diseases and surgeries, and the handy medical mneumonics were like music to my ears. Really. Reading Verghese's Cutting for Stone reminded me of the conversations that I tend to have with my friends in the medical field - they inevitably will deteriorate into the full-on medical jargon-fest. And they will become hard (and boring) to follow for the 'outsiders'. And I love it in a strange way. Insanity, like I said.

Tell me, in what other fiction book can you read about surgery for volvulus, vaginal fistula repairs, detailed C-section and transplant surgery description, and medical conditions that are becoming increasingly rare in the US and therefore are fascinating? Where else in fiction do you get a crash review course on different kinds of cardiac murmurs or vesicovaginal fistulae and the history of their repair? Right, I thought so. Medicine is so seamlessly integrated in the very structure of this novel that it becomes a character in its own right. Nicely done, Dr. Verghese.

“I'm ashamed of our human capacity to hurt and maim one another, to desecrate the body. Yet it allows me to see the cabalistic harmony of heart peeking out behind lung, of liver and spleen consulting each other under the dome of the diaphragm -- these things leave me speechless.”
Oh, but I guess you also care about the story, and not just about my dithyrambs about the medical jargon? Okay, okay. Here is the brief synopsis of 600-plus pages:
“Wasn't that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted.”
Twin boys Shiva and Marion (*) are born in a poor 'Missing' Hospital in Ethiopia to an Indian nun (who died in childbirth status post a horrific and vividly described Cesarean section) and a socially inept but talented British surgeon (who promptly exits the twins' lives mere minutes after their birth, having almost crushed their initially conjoined heads
(*) Marion is named after Marion Sims, the "father of American gynecology", who in the 19th century pioneered the operation for repair of vesicovaginal fistula (the abnormal communication between urethra and vagina with all the unpleasant and horrific consequences) - the operation that Shiva performs in this book.

Marion Sims' work became a subject of much controversy in the 20th century since he practiced his craft without anesthesia on slave women, with unknown consent of his subjects on some of whom he operated about 30 times.

The past of medicine is very often a very scary and cruel place.
The boys are adopted and raised by an eccentric couple of Indian doctors at Missing - Hema and Ghosh, who in an adorable and sweet way 'renew' their marriage each year. We witness them growing up around the hospital, learning medicine from a very tender age, living through periods of Ethiopian civil unrest, and, of course, girl troubles (Genet - the tragic girl who always tragically plays the tragic role in the brothers' tragic lives). Both brothers decide to pursue medicine - self-taught Shiva is a gynecologist while Marion . More tragedy ensues, forever changing the lives of the twins, and everyone learns the value of love and family through much sadness. And it's both a bit cheesy and melodramatic and touching.
“What we are fighting isn't godlessness--this is the most godly country on earth. We aren't even fighting disease. Its poverty. Money for food, medicines... that helps. When we cannot cure or save a life, our patients can at least feel cared for. It should be a basic human right.”

I also rather enjoyed the descriptions of practice of medicine in a poor Ethiopian society. You can't help but sadly laugh reading about money spent by the donors on sending Bibles to the hospital while the cash-strapped hospital desperately needs equipment and medications. The lack of resources leading to the necessity of excellent physical exam skills combined with some ingenuity was really interesting. And the stark contrasts between medicine in the US and Ethiopia were fascinating as well, reminding me of the stories I hear from the physicians who go to practice medicine in Africa for a while - surreal and fascinating and yet painfully real, with stark realities of poverty dictating medical care.
“God will judge us, Mr. Harris, by--by what we did to relieve the suffering of our fellow human beings. I don't think God cares what doctrine we embrace.”

Now, when stripped from the medicine component, the story itself did not fascinate me much. Mainly - because I did not care much for Marion, the narrator. His narrative voice is very monotone, as well as quite judgmental and, frankly, quite irritating. After hundreds and hundreds of pages listening to his voice, I still did not feel that I knew the character much. His neverending obsession with Genet was bordering on unhealthy and frightening. The subtle mystical elements of the connection between the twins Shiva and Marion are hinted at but never really followed through; we never really get to see much of it but are told without showing. Finally did not have the expected emotional effect, either.

The pacing was uneven as well, with the story dragging through the long sections of the narrative. And a word of warning - the description of a certain intercourse in this book is one of the most nausea-inducing things that I've ever read. Way too many bodily fluids are involved for my comfort level - and I HAVE been on the receiving end of way too many bodily fluids as a work hazard. So yeah. Be warned.

The female characters were not very well-developed and weak. Genet felt caricaturish at times. Hema had potential, but did not quite live up to it. The rest of female characters are kinda just there. But in all honesty, male characters were not that much better. Marion and Shiva's surrogate father, Ghosh, is the only character who I felt actually came to life in this book. He is shown as intelligent, kind, and compassionate, and yet still flawed. He is the only character for whom I actually cared at all.
“Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.”
The verdict: 3 stars for the beautiful descriptions of medicine and a notable quotability factor, but not as much for the story itself. I am not sure whether it will appeal to a non-medical person - maybe if you have more of sentimentality than I do.
“According to Shiva, life is in the end about fixing holes. Shiva didn't speak in metaphors. fixing holes is precisely what he did. Still, it's an apt metaphor for our profession. But there's another kind of hole, and that is the wound that divides family. Sometimes this wound occurs at the moment of birth, sometimes it happens later. We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We'll leave much unfinished for the next generation.”

Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Kate Merriman.
240 reviews68 followers
February 1, 2009
Beautifully written, engrossing novel plants you deeply in the passion of practicing medicine, winds you intimately into the cloth of Ethiopia. Verghese uses language so elegantly and paces his story so perfectly that I was totally transported.

I finished the book feeling homesick for Addis Ababa, although I have never been there.

When I signed up (in several places) to review early editions of books on my blog and in other viral / social media places (like Facebook), I had that little hope that I would be one of the first to discover a great new treasure and then be part of making sure the world knew about it.

I was sent the uncorrected proof courtesy of an offer from Alfred A. Knopf in the daily "Shelf Awareness" email newsletter. Thanks, Al.

The good news is - this early edition of Cutting for Stone is exactly that rare gem I was hoping to find!

The slightly less good news is - so many more high-profile reviewers are already raving about it, so Verghese probably doesn't need my help in the slightest.

Still, I feel lucky to be one of the first readers. It's hard to imagine another book unseating this as my favorite of 2009.

For me, it was right up there with East of Eden.

Now excuse me while I run out to eat a hearty meal at the one spot in all of Austin serving Injera and veggie Wott.

Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,997 followers
January 10, 2021
Great storytelling! I was captivated throughout.

The first time I heard about this book my brother-in-law and all of his medical school friends were reading it and couldn't say enough about how amazing it was. After reading it and seeing how much of it has to do with medicine and surgery, it makes perfect sense.

I really enjoyed getting to know all the characters and, seeing them deal with the social constructs of mid-20th century Ethiopia. Also, the author pulls no punches when it comes to the heart-wrenching twists and turns they all go through. Very amazing job done by Verghese.

I mention that there is a lot of medical content here. I recently read The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and I am reminded a lot of that book. What it comes down to is the medical content makes up a large portion of the book and most of it is very graphic - the author does not lighten things up. I think it is good that the harsh realities are shared and it is very important to the story. But, if you are easily queasy or can only stand a little intense medical content here and there, proceed with caution or do not proceed at all.

I have something about this book that I have to get off my chest. It does not detract from my rating and it is not a criticism of the overall quality of the book. I am marking it with a spoiler because I think it gives too much away.

Summary: A great book - be prepared for frustration and some stomach churning medical content
Profile Image for Debra .
2,426 reviews35.2k followers
September 7, 2016
I read this book years ago and I still find myself recommending it at least monthly to someone. It is so beautifully written, so moving, so involving, so perfect. I loved every single page of this book.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twins born to a Nun (yes you read correctly) and a British Surgeon in Addis Ababa (I know right, Where? ). They are orphaned after their father's disappearance and their Mother's death in childbirth. The boys are then raised by Hema and Ghosh, the two Indian doctors with a unique relationship of their own. I actually really liked these two characters and how they installed a love of medicine for the boys. The twins are always joined, well by being twins and by their fascination of medicine. But things are not always smooth for them. You see, they love the same woman and Marion flees to the United States upon completion of Medical School. But the past is not always in the past. The past has a way of catching up with us. Sometimes tapping us on the shoulder, sometimes giving us a firm shove from behind. This is what happens to Marion. He learns that sooner or later the past will come back and he will need to deal with his past.

Lets talk medicine for a moment. I really liked how the Author, A Medical doctor himself, described the medical procedures in a way that did not A. Gross me out or B. confuse me. I think this is a gift in and of itself. I actually found them to be fascinating.

Love and Betrayal are a theme. There is also lust, envy, grief, emigration, friendship, disease, poverty, education, love, family, death, loneliness, basically everything that makes a book good.

I highly recommend this book!

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews619 followers
March 13, 2017

I'm back again --(my friend Debbie told me I could 'edit' my own review')...

I want to say 'something' about this book again. I've given many 5 stars on books I've read ---which then makes THIS book a 5 ++++ star book!

Its exceptional! Every book club in the Bay Area was reading it at one time. The author 'always' had PACKED FULL rooms of people coming to hear him speak on this book. (I heard him speak twice).

Much could be discussed about this wonderful novel.

Note: There are two graphic scenes --(remember --a medical doctor wrote it) --- but this story takes you into a world where you loose yourself --

Also--the writing is breathtaking!

I've read all 3 of this authors books (the other two are 'non-fiction). I've liked them all ---

Yet--I also have a special heart for his other book called "The Tennis Player".
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,728 followers
April 3, 2018
3.5 of 5 stars to Abraham Verghese's novel, Cutting for Stone, which was a book club selection about 7 years ago. At first, I wasn't sure I'd like the book, as I expected it to be quite sad. And back then, I wasn't interested in reading sad or emotional books; however, this one was quite good and I waffled between a 3 and a 4. I settled on a 3 only because I felt it was a little too formal / stiff for the type of book it felt like it should have been -- still above average to me, as far as books go.

The basics: Twin brothers born in Ethiopia, Africa. The mother dies during childbirth and the father will need to raise them, but fate intervenes and they are separated. The book chronicles the separate life of the two boys and the connections between them. It's about the differences between America and Africa, love and fear, focus and desire. There are many surprises in the book, all leading you to root for certain things to happen in each of the relationships throughout the story.

I had never heard of the author before, and this is the only read I've tackled by him, so far. But he's got several other books and short stories. For me, it was a little too focused on the medical side of their personalities / careers / activities. Not in a bad way, just enough that it didn't burst at its seams as a superstar book. I also felt like it was a little light in the action at some points, but it certainly makes up for it in some major ways in the last third.

If you are interested in other cultures, different ways of doing things and what happens to twins when they aren't always near one another... it's a great read. I'd suggest reading a lot of reviews to decide if it's for you... as it's different than most books of its genres or sub-genre.

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For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,134 followers
February 28, 2020
I don’t think I am singing from the same hymn sheet as most people on good reads when it comes to my rating of Cutting for stone and while I did enjoy some aspects of the book, over all it was long drawn out and hard work.

I am not going to summarize the Novel as the blurb on the book sums it up pretty well.
The first 150 pages of this story I found very slow going and way too medically descriptive for my liking. Perhaps if I had more knowledge or liked programmes like ER or Grays Anatomy I would have connected with this book more.
It took 100 pages before the twins are actually born in the book and I thought this was made for tedious reading. Another issue I had from the beginning of the story was that I was unable to put faces to the characters and this was a big minus for me as I need to have images in my head of the characters in order to really enjoy a book. I think this was the first time in a novel where I have had this experience to such an extent.

However on the plus side from 300 pages onwards the book really picked up and Chapter 36 Prognostic Signs was one of my favourite chapters. I enjoyed the characters of Ghosh and Hema and for me they made this book come alive as their value on family and life was so touching.

Overall not a book I regret reading as I am sure it will provide good discussion but unfortunately not a book to sit on my real life book shelf.

Read for sit in book club read Feb Choice.
Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews899 followers
February 10, 2017
I hope it’s not too self-indulgent to start with a personal history here. The first I ever heard of this was when Amazon sent me one of those “since you liked x, we recommend y” mails. So right off the bat I was predisposed against it. Who wants some algorithm deciding things for them? [Insert wink that’s more than a little ironic given that I’m in the algo biz myself.] My second time hearing of it was when a nice older lady at a charity book sale was telling me how much she enjoyed it. While I don’t automatically dismiss what we might imagine is the Doily and Crumpet Club’s book of the month, I do resist seeing the correlation climb too high. Then came the turning point. My friend, the ever-popular Jason, gave it enthusiastic thumbs up here. He even likened it to Middlesex, one of my favorites. It was only a week later that I saw a copy at the annual book fair in Chicago. The vendor was a worse-for-the-wear guy from downstate with bad teeth and scraggly hair. He seemed to know a lot about every book he had including the Orhan Pamuk my wife picked up. Approval of my choice from the guy more dedicated to books than personal hygiene sealed the deal. And I’m glad.

It’s a great story and an even greater education. The bulk of the action is set in a mission hospital in Ethiopia where we learn a lot about medicine (underfunded though it may be) as well as the culture and history of the Selassie-led nation. The book focuses on identical twin boys, Shiva and Marion. They had been joined at the head at birth and were lucky to have survived the separation. Their upbringing was lucky in another way. When in the first hour after birth your mother, a nurse and devout nun from India, dies, and your father from the secret union, a brilliant English surgeon but the one who botched the operation, bolts, you need all the luck you can get. This came in the form of fellow doctors at the mission who adopted them. Hema and Ghosh, the adopting parents, also took in a young girl named Genet along with her servant mother. It was all one big happy family for a while but conflict was inevitable. It came in political, sexual, and moral forms. The narrative sweep extends into adulthood, through armed conflicts, a stint in New York, and medical traumas. These different stories matter to us more because the characters are so well-developed. You’ll be pleased to know that emotional investments here earn returns rarely seen in assets these days.

Verghese himself is a doctor so his book about doctors might easily have been didactic or hagiographic. I never got that sense, though. The technical details of surgery were integrated well within the story. They never seemed gratuitous. Both Marion, who narrates, and Shiva were also doctors. It was good to have a narrator who was three-dimensional and imperfect (especially when it came to Genet, his fleshly idée fixe). And he puffed less than he might have about his profession. I never thought of the book as preachy either, despite its moral elements. The only real flaws I perceived were 1) the first person account that occasionally became too omniscient, and, 2) a case of coincidence near the end that felt like an odd polyhedral peg somehow winding up at the exact hole to fit through. The feeling of contrivance broke the spell, but it was cast again soon enough. The later tightening in my throat was testament to that.

Verghese is also a very self-assured writer. In combination, knowing how to save lives, teaching at Stanford, and attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop must translate to confidence on the page. I certainly won’t hold his writing education against him (though I might have preferred hearing that his talent was purely a function of genius, not, in part, programmed). In any case, it was that unobtrusive style of writing that calls very little attention to itself. The pacing was good, the nonlinearities were effective (never confusing), and the sense of foreshadowing was masterful. Who cares if it was just good coaching – it worked.

I’ve been vacillating between 4 and 5 stars. It’s Friday today and my spirit is more generous. So 5 it is. Besides, when I think back on what made me like this book so much, it comes down to its genuine appeal to our better angels. It was more than just platitudes. Faith and doctrine were trumped by real compassion and attention to those who suffer. It made me want to be a better person. Read it and see if you agree. Then we’ll meet for injera bread and spicy wot and talk about Ghosh (so caring and wise), Hema (the talented obstetrician and protective mom), Matron (the brave and pragmatic head of the mission), and ShivaMarion (the twinned entity who continued to sleep head-to-head throughout childhood, had an almost psychic connection despite many differences, and were fascinating to observe in how their shared empathy and antipathy played out).
Profile Image for Annalisa.
547 reviews1,379 followers
February 9, 2017
This had the potential to be amazing, a sweeping epic history of Ethiopia ala The Poisonwood Bible, but for all of Verghese's description, he failed to paint a powerful picture of Ethiopia. I expected so much more from him. He wastes 20% of the book describing the first day, but most of it I found pointless to the novel. I would much rather all that description give me something of the setting, of the characters, something powerful and enduring. Either that or cut it by a good 200 pages. But I wouldn't cut the medical procedures. They gave me the setting Ethiopia did not. They also painted a picture of the characters. The coldness of Thomas Stone, the dedication of Sister Mary Joseph Praise, the drive for Hema, the heart of Ghosh, the genius of Shiva, and the preciseness of Marion. All of it can be described by the medical fields they practiced.

I think Ghosh was my favorite character. I can picture his hearty laugh now. I enjoyed Marion's relationship with Shiva and in the end that's what's fundamental to the book, their love, their distance, their painful understanding of each other. I liked Marion as a protagonist. I connected with his methodical and inactive responses. Genet was the character I struggled with the most. Of all the characters, she was the least fleshed out for so long, and yet, the most important to Marion, our protagonist. I struggled with the scene of her getting all hot and bothered by Shiva talking about sex. Only a man would write that and I didn't believe it. A lot of what she did was a little too convenient to maximum Marion's story and she didn't feel organic to me. Every time she showed up in the book, I knew something tragic was going to happen that didn't feel right for the story.

In the end, I liked the book. Somewhere around 400 pages I didn't want to put the book down. But it shouldn't have taken me 400 pages to get there. I should have been drawn in by the first 50, or the very least the first 100. The characters should have been stronger, the setting, the fake history (I would much rather real events had been intertwined with the story). None of it was as strong as the medicine.
Profile Image for Nicole.
750 reviews1,937 followers
February 18, 2021
DNF at 65%

I can't do it anymore. I tried and I tried but when at 60% and you don't care and not enjoying a book, it's not worth it. I still have around 9 hours left (out of 24) and I'm not going to waste more time over a book I don't like.

I rarely DNF books but it's a chore listening to this audiobook. The blurb says that the main character is betrayed by his brother. NO BETRAYAL YET. We had 6 hours of a story about people before he was born. Who writes these blurbs?? It’s as bad as the movie trailers that spoil everything. BUT NOTHING IS HAPPENING so far so what can they summarize? Not much at all.

Not recommended. I’m not sure if I should even keep the 2 stars rating. I mean the premise is very interesting and I want to read books about characters living in different parts of the world but on the other hand, I can’t stand boring plots and characters I don’t care about.

I once asked for audiobook recs and someone recommended this book from IG, well, I don’t trust bookstagram’s recommendations much to begin with but this is the first real bad xp.

Also, can someone tell male narrators not to imitate women's voices in audios? Thanks.

I honestly don't regret not finishing this book. If anything I should DNF books more often but I always hope it gets better. It rarely does.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,178 reviews531 followers
October 18, 2015
Before you read this book, consider this: the book was printed with an average of 425 words per page for 541 pages in an almost minus zero font size. That jerked my chain a bit, so I did not begin reading this book in quite the right frame of mind.

But who in their right mind would like to put down a book beginning like this:
"My brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of Grace 1954. We took our first breath in the thin air, 8 000 feet above sea level, of the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa."

"Bound by birth, we were driven apart by bitter betrayal. No surgeon can heal the wound that divides two brothers. Where silk and steel fail, story must succeed."
The twins, Drs. Marion , and Shiva Praise Stone, were born to a nun, Sister Mary Joseph Praise from the Carmalite Order of Madras, who were sent with Sister Anjali to darkest Africa to serve in hospitals. She would end up at the "Missing"(Mission) hospital of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, via Aden in Yemen, with a dark secret she cold never share.
"Sister Mary Joseph was a Malayali Christian. She could trace her faith back to St. Thomas's arrival in India from Damascus in A.D. 52. "Doubting" Thomas built his first churches in Karala well before St. Peter got to Rome."

"To her parents' chagrin, my mother became a Carmalite none,abandoning the ancient Syrian Christian tradition of St. Thomas to embrace (in her parents view) this Johnny-come-lately, pope-worshipping sect... It was a good thing her parents didn't know that she was also a nurse, which to them would mean that she soiled her hands like an untouchable."
In the first 109 pages the background to the birth is introduced and when the birth finally takes place with high drama, I sighed with relief. Pardon my momental snarkyness, but I almost put down the book and moved on.

At first the book did not tickle my cor musculi really, it often rather annoyed the Musculus sphincter ani internus instead! The good thing was that the book distinctly distinguished itself from a romance novel by allocating 109 pages to the birth of the twins instead of to coitus, although it did challenge my knowledge of Latin and anatomy to the extreme. The good thing about romance novels is that they do not use Latin a thousand times to breath, whisper, huff, puff, holler and cry, "I Love You."

This book did not do it either, thank goodness, but I was holding my breath! With the intensity and detail the characters' lives, especially those of the twins, were initially colored in with Latin so lavishly splashed all over it, anything was possible! And everything pointed to a great love story in the making after all!

Yes, I was equally as impressed as I was slightly blowing steam off through my nares by being constantly dropped into the world of Latin by a surgeon (Dr.Thomas Stone) whose work was his life hiding his "social retardiness" - as expressed by his colleagues. I did not want to read a medical journal at all !

The love of Latin genetically moves forward to the next generation. Marion would as a young boy discover the magic:
"I loved those Latin words for their dignity, their foreigness and that my tongue had to wrap around them. I felt that in learning the special language of a scholarly order, I was amassing a kind of force. This was the poor and noble side of the world, uncorrupted by secrets and trickery."
Dr. Gosh was of the opinion that the language of love and medicine was the same "Take off your shirt. Open your mouth. Take a deep breath.".

The surgeon, Dr. Thomas Stone, would have disagreed. He would have insisted on Latin near, or on, any bed! That's all he really understood. And this is where I almost gave up on the book, not because it was not well written - it was in fact brilliantly prosed from the start, but because it seemed as though I needed to order a Latin dictionary first and do at least six years of medical school before I could proceed and I was just not in the mood for it! If the storyline was to be taken away, it could have been a well-texted book on practicing medicine in the tropics.

As a young boy, Marion would receive his first stethoscope from Dr.Gosh. Was there more in this gift than the eyes could see? Was he trying to teach this boy how to find the secrets behind his parents and he and his brother's birth? :
"He invited me into a world that was not secret, but it was well hidden. You needed a guide. You had to know what to look for, but also how to look. You had to exert yourself to see this world. But if you did, if you had that kind of curiosity, if you had an innate interest in the welfare of your fellow human beings, and if you went through that door, a strange thing happened: you left your petty troubles on the threshold. It could be addictive."
It is exactly the reason why I just could not put the bloody book down, for, believe me, bloody it was! Buckets full of it!

The narrative focuses mostly on the lives of the two twins in their growing up years and which events and people would structure their characters / personalities / destinies. In the end the expression comes to mind: "It is not what happens to you, but how you handle it, that counts."

The tale is an intense, well-researched, well-written novel introducing the fascinating societies of Addis Ababa - Ethopia, Madras - India, New York & Boston in the USA. The book blends African politics, people, compassion, love, fast paced adventure and fiction in such a way that all readers from all walks of life, especially hospital-story junkies, interested in this beautiful but harsh African continent, will find some aspect of the book agreeable and worth reading.

One of my favorite Mark Twain aphorisms is: "I can live for two months on a good compliment."

For me it is not a compliment but strings of words having me wonder around in sheer delirious bliss! Abraham Verghese rooted me to the book with prose like this:
"There was three spaced knocks on the door of Matron's office. "Come in," Matron said,and with those words Missing was on a course different than anyone could have imagined. It was at the start of the rainy season, when Addis was stunned into wet submission."
There are sweet anecdotal moments such as this: Dr. Marion Praise Stone, the narrator, recounts a moment in their childhood:
"In our household, you had to dive into the din and push to the front if you wanted to be heard. The foghorn voice was Ghosh's, echoing and tailing off into laughter. Hema was the songbird, but when provoked her voice was as sharp as Saladin's scimitar,which, according to my Richard the Lion Hearted and the Crusades, could divide a silk scarf allowed to float down onto the blade's edge. Almaz, our cook, may have been silent on the outside, but her lips moved constantly, whether in prayer or song,no one knew. Rosina took silence as a personal offense, and spoke into empty rooms and chattered into cupboards. Genet, almost six years old of age, was showing signs of taking after her mother, telling herself stories about herself in a singsong voice, creating her own mythology."
Initially there is a deceitful tranquility present in the rhythm of the prose. The author used an ingenious method to pacify the reader while having an addictive mixture of tension and drama bubbling and boiling underneath.

Marion never wanted to sit in the twin-stroller playing with his wooden truck like his brother. Marion wanted an adult view on the world. Rosina had to constantly carry him around.

The epiphany, for me, happened here:
P.184: "...the kitchen was alive. Steam rises in plumes as Almaz clangs lids on and off the pots. The silver weight on the pressure cooker jiggles and whistles. Almaze's sure hands chop onions, tomatoes, and fresh coriander, making hillocks that dwarf the tiny mounds of ginger and garlic. ... A mad alchemist she throws a pinch of this, a fistful of that, then wets her fingers and flings that moisture into the mortar. She pounds with the pestle, the wet, crunchy thunk thunk soon changes to the sound of stone on stone.

...Mustard seeds explode in the hot oil. She holds a lid over the pan to fend off the missiles. Rat-a-tat! like hail on the tin roof. She adds the cumin seeds, which sizzles, darken and crackle. A dry, fragrant smoke chases out the mustard scent. Only then are the onions added, handfuls of them, and now the sound is that of life being spawned in a primordial fire.

Rosina abruptly hands me over to Almaz... I whimper on Almaz's shoulder, perilously close to the bubbling cauldrons. Almaz puts down the laddle and shifts me to her hip. Reaching into her blouse, grunting with effort, she fishes out her breast.

"Here it is," she says, putting it in my hands for safekeeping...Almaz, who hardly speaks, resumes stirring, humming a tune. It is as if the breast no more belongs to her than does the laddle."
This scene above acted as a metaphor for this book: so seemingly uncomplicated, innocent and serene on the surface, but exploding with energy under the lid! What was hidden in the mixture would ultimately add meaning and definition, like exquisite aromas from a pot-pourri of herbs and spices to the people's lives. The experience will be hot and penetrating; sweet and scrumptious, heavy and often "indigestably" cruel.

From then on things started to happen rapidly, the drama increased leaving the reader mesmerized and in complete wonder!

The story was brilliantly constructed, although it could have been a 100 pages shorter, in my opinion. There were almost an endless role of "Latinish"-like hospital scenes that leaves the impression of the author expressing opinions through a novel instead of getting his ideas published elsewhere. I was surprised, when thinking back on the role of each person in the narrative, how each one of them made an amazing contribution to the story! The characters was well developed; the denouement at the end of all the elements a huge surprise. The story completes a full unbelievable circle, which really had me sitting back in total amazement. The end left me breathless....and yes speechless...! And when I started recounting all the elements in the book I was amazed at the unusual brilliant tale it was.

A Great read!
Profile Image for Jennifer Welsh.
258 reviews222 followers
August 5, 2021
I almost gave this book 5 stars, because the last third of the book culminated beautifully, with all that came before woven with purpose into an emotionally full and satisfying completion. But I struggled with the first 100 pages or more, feeling (until the end) that the author could have cut out all that set- up.

I struggled for 3 main reasons:

1. The author provided a depth of medical detail during surgeries that either bored me, or made me squeamish. Because I felt little-to-no connection to the characters initially, it was unpleasant to be so close to all those fluids and organs. I get that many people may find this fascinating, and that this is a personal reaction.

2. Because the story takes place in a mission hospital, the set-up included a lot of religious detail that also felt too removed from the characters to interest me.

3. The story is initially told from multiple perspectives, and there was only one character - Hema - who I deeply cared about. Her presence, along with her immediate family's, grows throughout the book, as the others fade to the background.

If you're at all like me, and you haven't yet read this book, please give it a try and hang in there:

1. The tight cause and effect of these characters' fates is masterful - both devastating and exhilarating.

2. Verghese weaves a vivid experience of life in an Ethiopian hospital during a point in history, while revealing the vulnerabilities of this particular family.

3. Reading this is an immersion of the senses. Once I cared about the characters, I found the medical knowledge fascinating and suspenseful.

4. The story is filled with love, and so I fell in.
Profile Image for Katie.
279 reviews357 followers
May 30, 2020
An epic saga set initially in a mission hospital in Ethiopia. Twins are born to an Indian nun and a British doctor. The nun who has become the doctor's assistant in the operating theatre dies in childbirth; the doctor, overcome with grief, flees the country overnight. No one knew she was pregnant; no one is even sure the doctor is the father of the twins. The twins are adopted by the other two surgeons at the hospital. Ghosh has always been in love with Hema but she has always made fun of his feelings. It's a compelling premise to begin a novel with and I did love the first half of this novel. But the longer it went on the more my love faded. There were too many lengthy descriptions of surgical procedures for me, some of which served no purpose except to allow the author to show off his knowledge.

I also felt the author made a miscalculation regarding his two central male characters. Did they both need to be so emotionally immature, unless he was putting forward the theory that surgeons hone their professional skills at the expense of emotional development. The sexual idealism and self-pity of the narrator grated on me. He's still sulking about an adolescent sexual betrayal well into his adult years. His father's behaviour is no less incomprehensible at key moments in the novel's plot.

If a writer's prose style was his dress code Verghese would be attired in a smart black suit - elegant, professional but essentially indistinguishable from many others. It's a well written novel but not, for me, an excitingly written novel.
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
December 2, 2012
Some books have a hypnotic effect and they leave you in a state of haziness when you finish them. Cutting for Stone has been such a book for me.

It is a beautiful novel because it succeeds in creating endearing personalities.

Apart from this, there is very little I can add to the very many reviews in GR, or to what the author has presented in the “Stanford Book Salon”. He acted as the Faculty Host when they chose this book in their monthly reading.

As I do not belong to the medical community, I found, as many other readers, that the abundant medical content required more concentration on my part. But I did not mind. It helped to create a setting of doctors (most of the characters are, and a crucial part of the action takes place in SurgeryRoom3), and to get a glimpse of a medical mind, especially that of a surgeon’s. For example, visiting the patient just after succesful surgery can become addictive, because of its exhilarating effect. Or how nerve-wracking it must be to hold in one’s hands, literally, the heart of a beloved person. I think it would drive me mad.

It has also been very enriching to learn about Ethiopia and to speculate on how history would have been different if the ancient Ethiopia (Aksumite kingdom) had succeeded in being an alternative Empire to Rome’s. I have started already some vague plans to visit the place (and not just its restaurants to taste the inviting injera).
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book564 followers
April 25, 2018
For years now this wonderful book has been sitting on my unread books shelf. It has occasionally whispered my name, but I have always told it “next time.” I am so pleased that I finally broke that pattern, for this book is one of those not to be missed experiences. (Permission granted to my friend, Candi, to say “I told you so.”)

The author, Abraham Verghese, is a physician, and his experience and knowledge come through in spades. They add a level of realism and veracity to the story that might be missing in the hands of a non-professional. However, it is not his medical expertise that shines brightest in this story, it is his understanding of human beings and his ability to create characters who are real and warm and vulnerable.

Every time I thought I knew where this book was going, I got a surprise. Every surprise was well conceived, fit the narrative, and propelled the story forward to its natural conclusion. I grew to love Marion Stone, our narrator, and through him the multitude of interesting people who were so unlike anyone I have ever known and yet so human as to be instantly recognizable. Dr. Ghosh is someone I will never forget--the kind of man you hope to find somewhere in your life, a person to trust, love and learn from.

Cutting for Stone goes right into my favorites folder and on my keepers shelf at home. If it is sitting on your shelf, pick it up and read it. You will be glad you did.
Profile Image for warren Cassell.
48 reviews24 followers
January 27, 2009
This is the one that started me. I read a galley and it will be published February 2. It was a sublime reading experience, the best novel I have read in several years. Back in the old days of Just Books, I probably would not have let a customer out of the store without the book in hand. In some places that might be considered pushy. In Greenwich, it was a gushing "Thanks Warren for putting this book in my hands."

Anyway, this is the story of twin doctors separated at their birth in a hospital in Ethiopia. The mother who had been an Indian nurse/nun died as a result of denying the pregnancy's existence and not getting any prenatal care. The twins are raised by two Indian doctors who bring them up as their own children. The mother is a very independent woman who will marry her colleague only on condition they will renew their vows every year. The twins grow up to be a physician (what else) and a medical researcher. Their journey as a family and as individuals envelops you more and more every page. This too was outstanding
Profile Image for Anne .
455 reviews376 followers
August 1, 2021
“Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.”
― Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

This is a very quotable novel. That's not surprising given that the author's inspiration for writing this novel was another very quotable novel, Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. Abraham Verghese discusses this in a brief interview I watched on Youtube. ( I thought OHB was about everything the protagonist does while putting off becoming a doctor.) Verghese also mentions The Citadel by A.J. Cronin as another inspirational story about the coming of age of a doctor. His main point is that being a doctor shouldn't just be a job; it should be a passion or a calling. That certainly comes across in Cutting for Stone. All of the doctors and surgeons are passionate about their work.

There are many reviews of this novel on GR. Another one from me is really unnecessary. Just a few thoughts. I really enjoyed this saga. I would easily recommend it to most people with a couple caveats. There were a few too many times when I felt that the story lagged and the ending was a bit unsatisfying.

One exchange between Marion and his NYC Chief Resident had me grinning from ear to ear. Early on in his internship Marion asks, "where are all the other doctors?"

CR: "what do you mean "other doctors?" (He knows exactly what he means)

Marion: " You know, the other New York doctors."

CR: " You mean the WHITE doctors?"

Marion: "Well, yes."

The CR's explanation is spot on and hilarious (as it's meant to be, though the reality of the situation is not hilarious at all).

This novel is an especially amazing achievement given that it is a debut novel. Most of it is set in Ethiopia and NYC with one unintended layover in Rome:

“Life for the Italians was what it was, no more and no less, an interlude between meals.”

I love this quote because it's funny and so true. :)). I can think of a few worse places to be stranded for a few days.

The audiobook narration was superb.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews533 followers
February 10, 2017
A deeply affecting story of life and death and the wonders of medicine. It is hard to beleive this is a work of fiction so compelling is the bond between two brothers and the extended family that colours their lives. Brimming with medical insight and vividly set in mid-century Ethiopia this tale transports you to another time and place. Family, blood, betrayal and forgiveness... Cutting for Stone is a requiem to the healing power of love.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,449 reviews1,094 followers
April 5, 2022
4.5 stars

The only thing that kept me from rating this book 5 stars was the amount of very detailed medical information that is included throughout the book. You can definitely tell a doctor wrote this. It's not a bad thing, all of it for the most part relates to the actual plot of the book and to the characters. But towards the middle of the book it starts to really slow the story down. But the beginning! And the ending! Absolutely five star stuff there. I definitely recommend this. Just don't let all the medical stuff turn you away.

Also, was I the only person who first heard about fistulas from Oprah Winfrey? No? Just me?
Profile Image for Barb H.
697 reviews
June 13, 2023
As usual, I will not summarize the plot here, merely comment on my reaction to this book. The essences of the story are many- love/lust, heartbreak and humiliation,the ability to forgive and the trials and tribulations of life and death. It is difficult to know where to start with all of these complex, interwoven themes.

Verghese has undertaken a novel which is very broad and ambitious in scope. His geographic sweep travels from Asia, to Africa, to America, with the major part in Ethiopia. The landscape and the people are portrayed realistically and with clarity. In Addis Ababa, one can clearly envision the poverty and the discrepancies between the classes that existed there. Although the chronology of the political turmoil in Ethiopia is altered for the purposes of the story, it is evident how the populace was efected.

An interesting feature is the title, Cutting for Stone , itself. I spent much time thinking about this through most of my reading. There are references to this term in several areas of the narrative, one most clearly in the latter part of the story. One could conjecture that it alludes to Dr. Stone, a surgeon. The Hippocratic Oath includes, "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." The practice of "cutting for stone" was also employed at one time to root out mental illness with cranial trephination.

My own medical experience served me well while reading. For the most part, Verghese's profession as a physician and author was well blended with his accuracy and extensive descriptions of medical conditions and procedures. Although I found these factors stimulating and enjoyable, I wondered how those less immersed in medicine might react. There were a few occasions where I thought certain surgical procedures strained credibility. In particular, the conjoining of the twins was a half-hearted effort.

The last part of the book seemed to disintegrate with many coincidences occuring. The use of the backstory was also disturbing. Many events seemed to have happened previously so that when the reader becomes fully informed, the information seems belated and less well integrated into the novel.

Despite any negative criticisms I appreciated Verghese's ambitious eforts and enjoyed reading this novel.
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