Annalisa's Reviews > Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
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's review
Feb 23, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: book-club, historical-fiction, literary
Recommended to Annalisa by: amy gretchen

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.
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Reading Progress

February 23, 2011 – Shelved
August 2, 2011 – Started Reading
August 2, 2011 –
page 13
1.95% "I can tell the writing is going to be beautiful on this one. I just don't know that I have the brain to finish it right now."
August 22, 2011 –
page 180
26.99% "Thank you, president Obama, for reading this so everyone else wants to read it too. I guess I'll have to wait my turn in line to continue instead of being able to renew."
August 30, 2011 –
page 316
47.38% ""The book had started slowly and it had yet to pick up any pace. But perhaps that was the point.""
September 10, 2011 – Finished Reading
September 20, 2011 – Shelved as: book-club
September 20, 2011 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
September 20, 2011 – Shelved as: literary

Comments (showing 1-8)

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message 8: by Mirely (new) - added it

Mirely Hi Annalisa. How do you like this book so far?

Annalisa It was long, but in the end I liked it. I just have to take the time to come write a review.

message 6: by Mirely (new) - added it

Mirely Ok. I was contemplating reading it but wondered what you might think about the book. I'm just not sure I want to read it or not. Hmmm...

Annalisa It's good. Everyone else seems to have loved it. I thought it was good but not quite amazing.

message 4: by Mirely (new) - added it

Mirely I'll put it on my list to read. Thanks!

Rachel Walden I too read 'Poisonwood,' but never thought of comparing the two. Both are sweeping and beautiful and helped me learn more of the countries they took place in. 'Cutting' asks more of the reader, in my opinion, but both are wonderful separately.

Lynn This book seems to me to be more a story of people than location. The twins are born in Ethiopia, and rarely leave the hospital grounds as children, and like children are not much aware of the social/political upheaval in their country. By contrast, the main characters in Poisonwood are foreigners in Africa. It seems to me this was first and foremost a character novel. And what characters!

Annalisa Lynn,
I'm glad you enjoyed it. There were some strong characters. I just think it could have had great characters AND a great setting, but he setting fell short.

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