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Cutting for Stone Paperback – January 26, 2010
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“A masterpiece. . . . Not a word is wasted in this larger-than-life saga. . . . Verghese expertly weaves the threads of numerous story lines into one cohesive opus. The writing is graceful, the characters compassionate and the story full of nuggets of wisdom.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Lush and exotic. . . . The kind [of novel] Richard Russo or Cormac McCarthy might write. . . . Shows how history and landscape and accidents of birth conspire to create the story of a single life. . . . Verghese creates this story so lovingly that it is actually possible to live within it for the brief time one spends with this book. You may never leave the chair.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Vivid. . . . Cutting for Stone shines.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“Absorbing, exhilarating. . . . If you’re hungry for an epic . . . open the covers of Cutting for Stone, [then] don’t expect to do much else.”
—The Seattle Times
“Wildly imaginative. . . . Verghese has the rare gift of showing his characters in different lights as the story evolves, from tragedy to comedy to melodrama, with an ending that is part Dickens, part Grey’s Anatomy. The novel works as a family saga, but it is also something more, a lovely ode to the medical profession.”
“Compelling. . . . Readers will put this novel down at book’s end knowing that it will stick with them for a long time to come.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“The novel is full of compassion and wise vision. . . . I feel I changed forever after reading this book, as if an entire universe had been illuminated for me. It’s an astonishing accomplishment to make such a foreign world familiar to a reader by the book’s end.”
—Sandra Cisneros, San Antonio Express-News
“Tremendous. . . . Vivid and thrilling. . . . I feel lucky to have gotten to read it.”
“The first novel from physician Verghese displays the virtues so evident in his bestselling and much-lauded memoirs. He has a knack for well-structured scenes, a passion for medicine and a gift for communicating that passion.”
“Fantastic. . . . Written with a lyrical flair, told through a compassionate first-person point of view, and rich with medical insight and information, [Cutting for Stone] makes for a memorable read.”
“Vastly entertaining and enlightening.”
About the Author
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Masterfully written by Abraham Verghese, this is the story of identical, conjoined twins Marion and Shiva, born in Ethiopia of a disgraced Roman Catholic nun from India and a talented, but socially inept white surgeon. Taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and New York City, this is an extraordinary saga of love, hate, brotherhood, ambition, the ingenuity of the science of medicine, violent political upheaval, and what it truly means to be a family.
The novel's strength is twofold: the superb storytelling and the vividly-rendered characters. It will fill your heart and then break it and then fill it again, proving this is a nearly perfect book.
Major Character Without a Name: Medicine/Surgery. Verghese is a medical doctor by profession, and his extensive knowledge of both medicine and surgery (routine and trauma) is on display throughout the book with detailed descriptions that I found it utterly fascinating. You will learn more about the human liver than you ever thought you would know in your lifetime. And it's not gratuitous. In fact, it adds enormously to the drama of the plot and the development of the characters.
Minor Character Without a Name: Food. Do not read this book when you are hungry. The descriptions of Ethiopian cuisine are mouthwatering—from injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture that is considered the national dish of Ethiopia and Eritrea, to wot, a stew or curry prepared with chicken, beef, or lamb, as well as a variety of vegetables and spices. (I looked online for a recipe for wot and found out it takes four days, 11 hours, and 35 minutes to make. Now I'm Googling the location of the nearest Ethiopian restaurant.)
This is one of those imaginative, monumental books that will appeal to almost everyone. I just know that years from now I will still be recommending it friends. If you're looking for a captivating read, choose this one. Now.
I own the actual book, yet I always listen to it rather than actually read it. The writing and the performance demonstrate the true value of reading aloud. English is “alive,” and listening to this Verghese’s words in performance by Mr. Malhotra satisfies many times over.
The book brings out various facets of the country and gives a good perspective of the society for readers to understand and appreciate the ways of life. The turbulence therein has been interwoven so well with the lives of the characters of the story to make a gripping reading. Even though it is not a thriller and given that it is loaded with high technical stuff on medicine and surgery, still I found it difficult to stop my reading at any point. And there were so many details interspersed into the writing, which made it very difficult for me to rush through the pages. So, it was like a strong cup of coffee, the bitterness kept me from finishing it fast, but the taste kept me wanting for more.
It also threw some philosophical angle for what one carries through the life and how the unspoken torments. How the slipper just refuses to leave your feet, unless you look down and acknowledge it in the first place. And also that it’s the noble end which matters, noble means does not.
I would highly recommend this book for all my friends
Top international reviews
The book is centered on Marion and his hunt for the truth about his biological parents. It is also about relationships: with his twin brother Shiva, a girl he is interested in Genet, and his adopted parents Ghosh and Hema. The book follows Marion from when he is a baby to a fully grown up adult when he becomes a surgeon, and tells of differences between working in America and Ethiopia. What comes off clearly from the pages throughout the novel is the author's love of medicine: and I guess he is basing the character of Ghosh on himself.
Ghosh is an extroverted warm funny doctor who loves to teach Marion about medicine: how to perform physical exam correctly so to identify any abnormality if present. The writing of Verghese is so natural- (thinking about descriptions of liver physiology in the closing chapters) that I find far more absorbing than medical textbooks. Ghosh is the inspiration: and he came up with the legendary Ls: love, learning, legacy. There is a fascinating chapter when Ghosh writes to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine: arguing how a clinical sign is not pretentious: and Ghosh becomes Professor so naturally (through his love of medicine). It is also this which he shares with Thomas.
All the characters are so alive, and how Abraham does this is a mystery- but I'm given clues from reading the Acknowledgement section where he sends his work off to so many different people who know so much about a specific (talking to doctors who pioneered fistula surgery) which might explain why the book is so rich. The characters: Hema is a driven person who tries at all costs to avoid the herd life. Genet is mercurial. Thomas is shy brilliant surgeon wounded by the past. Shiva- probably favourite character- does not say much but doe not waste words- and is so different to Marion- but also inspired to greatness.
The book can also be hilarious (descriptions of ShivaMarion as babies, Rectal exam story). And is a lovely full book. I don't know if any novel Abraham writes can surpass this.
Yet Cutting for Stone gets off to a rocky start. It opens with the birth of conjoined twins, Marion and Shiva Stone, to an Indian nun practising at in the fictional Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. The narrative immediately ramifies outwards and backwards, however; to the story of the twins' father, a brilliant surgeon, their mother, and the other physicians practising at the hospital. Combined with Verghese's magnificently poetic but rather dense prose, and an protracted, gory denouement, it is easy to become bogged down in the opening hundred pages of Cutting for Stone. It is one of the weakest sections of the book, and an offputting beginning.
Readers who persevere, however, will be rewarded with a rich, beautifully-crafted account of Marion's life; predominantly his upbringing at Missing Hospital. Wounded by his mother's death and father's abandonment, but still curious and driven to succeed, Marion is a sympathetic protagonist. His relationships with his foster parents, his peculiar brother, and later his all-consuming love for a childhood friend, are compelling and wonderfully-drawn. It is also through Marion that the reader comes to known the everyday beauty and tragedy of life in Addis Ababa, and later the coup and revolutionary war which wrack Ethiopia. These are fascinating topics, and evocatively written. Verghese's digressions into medicine and surgery, however, are more intrusive, and feel like self-indulgence on the part of the author. Cutting for Stone's medical content increases as Marion goes on to an internship in New York, and robs the novel of a little of its magic. The book's climax unfortunately marks a further major misstep on Verghese's part; a woefully contrived calamity lifted from the script of a daytime medical soap opera.
I would love to recommended Cutting for Stone wholeheartedly, such is the strength of Verghese's writing, his vivid characters and brilliant settings. Even bookended by flawed opening and closing sections, however, this remains an enthralling, rewarding read. Breathtaking in scope, and for the large part superbly executed, it is easy to overlook its uneven plotting and gratuitous medical content, and eagerly await Verghese's sophomore effort.
Conjoined twins are born in Ethiopia to a Nun; astounding the people around, who were unaware even that she was pregnant! They are destined to live very different lives, becoming radically different people in this intriguing book which takes you around the world; from Ethiopia to Philadelphia. Drawn from incidents in the life of the author, this is an intriguing book. It has received excellent reviews and has been selected as Reading Group book of the week on the Channel 4 TV programme, where it was very favourably received.
I have to say, this book grips you near the beginning and never lets you go. The plot is excellent; the characters are well drawn and, although detailed, it is exciting from the word `go'.
This is the sort of book that can be read on a variety of levels - whether merely for entertainment or to find out more about the past, and is well worth a read for a variety of reasons.
I learnt a lot about Ethopian hisotory (all we know of in the West is the famine in the early 80s!) and also medical procedures (I am quite interested in medical matters, but some descriptions were a bit long-winded and repetitious ie, re the liver!).
I love a well-written historical saga and this fits the bill nicely.
It could make a good film with some outstanding visual effects.... but I won't be in a hurry to read it again. However, it will remain on my bookshelf and I'll probably look at it again eventually.