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Cutting for Stone: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 3, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 3,604 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: John Irving Reviews Cutting for Stone

John Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times--winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. In 1992, Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules--a film with seven Academy Award nominations. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Cutting for Stone:

That Abraham Verghese is a doctor and a writer is already established; the miracle of this novel is how organically the two are entwined. I’ve not read a novel wherein medicine, the practice of it, is made as germane to the storytelling process, to the overall narrative, as the author manages to make it happen here. The medical detail is stunning, but it never overwhelms the humane and narrative aspects of this moving and ambitious novel. This is a first-person narration where the first-person voice appears to disappear, but never entirely; only in the beginning are we aware that the voice addressing us is speaking from the womb! And what terrific characters--even the most minor players are given a full history. There is also a sense of great foreboding; by the midpoint of the story, one dreads what will further befall these characters. The foreshadowing is present in the chapter titles, too--‘The School of Suffering’ not least among them! Cutting for Stone is a remarkable achievement.--John Irving

(Photo © Maki Galimberti)


From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lauded for his sensitive memoir (My Own Country) about his time as a doctor in eastern Tennessee at the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, Verghese turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations. Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, leaves the south Indian state of Kerala in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the arduous sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone, who becomes a key player in her destiny when they meet up again at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brothers long, dramatic, biblical story set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the life of the hospital compound in which they grow up and the love story of their adopted parents, both doctors at Missing. The boys become doctors as well and Vergheses weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power and coincidences of the best 19th-century novel. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375414495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375414497
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,604 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This brilliant novel revolves around what is broken -- limbs, family ties, trust -- and the process of rebuilding them. It starts with the birth of twin boys to a nursing nun, Sister Mary Praise Joseph, in a small hospital on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; an event which no one had expected: "The everyday miracle of conception had taken place in the one place it should not have: in Sister Mary Praise Joseph's womb." The delivery rapidly becomes a debacle when it's clear that Mary Praise Joseph can't deliver her baby normally; the last minute arrival home at "Missing" (the Mission Hospital) by Indian obstetrician Hema saves the children, but their mother dies and their presumed father father, surgeon Thomas Stone, disappears into the night.

That brief summary does no justice to Verghese's powerful and remarkable prose style or the structure of the first part of the book which, although it revolves around the tragedy that claims the life of the twins' mother, also introduces the other main characters who will take the place of their biological parents. Darting back and forth between the events in the surgical theater (as Thomas Stone, horrified at what he sees, first tries to save Mary Joseph Praise's life by collapsing the skull of the infant he believes cannot be born alive), the mundane daily activities of his fellow doctor, Ghosh (trying to escape what he believes is a hopeless love for Hema) and Hema's struggle to get home to Missing from her annual holiday in India, the reader will find it impossible to put the book down and wants only to find a way of reading faster and faster to discover what happens next.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Throughout this magnificent novel, this question is answered affirmatively over and over again. Whether your brother is your identical twin, an orphaned child, an unfortunate neighbor, or a stranger, each person deserves to be cared for.

Beginning in India, the story progresses to Africa where it remains until the protagonist immigrates to America. Marion, the narrator of this fictional autobiography, is one of a set of identical twins. His birth and life at the mission, Missing, provide the basis for the conflicts and triumphs contained in the novel. The historical backdrop, Ethiopia's internal conflicts and coups, impart additional depth to the book's realistic atmosphere. The title "Cutting for Stone" is taken from the Hippocratic oath, but may also reflect a double meaning. The biological father of the Marion and his twin, Shiva, is Thomas Stone, a famous surgeon. In what may be a subconscious effort to emulate and impress their absent parent, both become skilled surgeons. They are "Cutting for Stone".

This is one of the most outstanding books I have been privileged to read. Verghese is a skilled writer and draws the reader into the book immediately. The characters are strong, interesting, and very human; the conflicts are realistic and keep the pace of the novel moving forward. Even minor characters are sufficiently well developed so that the reader would like to know more about their lives. There is gentle humor, emotional turmoil, and great personal triumph throughout the book.

Allow yourself the luxury of time to read "Cutting for Stone" without interruption. If you do not, you will find yourself thinking about the characters and wondering what is going to happen to each one.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
The plot of this book can be summed up neatly: Cutting for Stone follows the lives of two boys from birth to adulthood. The boys, Marion and Shiva are identical twins orphaned at birth who are raised by a surrogate family and grow up on the grounds of Missing Hospital in Ethiopia. Although they individuate in adolescence, their lives continue to be intertwined and develop along parallel paths. Eventually both men practice medicine, one in America and the other in Ethiopia. However, this book is so much more than plot.

Cutting for Stone is a beautifully written coming-of-age novel weaving family, hospital and house staff, patients, community, disease, and country into a complex tapestry. It incorporates love, lust, trust, betrayal, commitment, emigration, faith, poverty, life, death, hope, dreams, fears, and just about every other big theme you can imagine without ever becoming predictable, manipulative, or cliched. It's an epic story that feels intimate and cozy and enveloping. The characters are like family and I'd feel at home if I visited Missing Hospital, Matron, and the staff.

I usually read quickly, finishing a book in a day or two. Cutting for Stone took more than a week. The story was compelling, but I read slowly to savor the words and picture Addis Ababa through Marion's eyes. I didn't want the journey to end.

I will be recommending this book to all my reading friends for a long time to come and can't wait for Dr. Verghese to pass through my city on his book tour. Go grab a copy and start reading - you won't be disappointed.
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