- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 23 hours and 59 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Random House Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: February 3, 2009
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B001RMWBFC
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Cutting for Stone: A Novel Audiobook – Unabridged
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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. By the time the twins are born, attached by a blood vessel at the head and separated at the last moment by Stone and Hema to save their lives, the reader will find himself or herself resenting every moment not spent following this story until the tale is told. And even when you are finished, the novel and its more-than-compelling characters will linger on in your mind...
Separated at birth, the twins grow up in the Ethiopia of the Emperor Haile Selaisse's reign, and Verghese introduces the reader to an ancient world that will be new to most readers, with all its flavors, colors, scents and sounds. His remarkable artistry ensures that this is never jarring but always intriguing and that the characters -- Indian expatriate doctors raising their two foster children, born to an Indian nun and an American surgeon, with the help of an Eritrean caretaker and her own daughter -- feel as familiar to us as if they were members of our own family. In the manner of a classic epic, Verghese picks his themes -- separation, the intersection of sex and death, wounds and what surgery can and can't accomplish -- and sticks to them throughout. And yet, those themes -- sweeping ones for any novelist to tackle -- never overshadow the fact that this is, at its core, the story of two brothers, Shiva and Marion -- or ShivaMarion, as Marion, the narrator, describes their single-minded unity in their youngest years.
Ultimately, the political events in Ethiopia and family betrayals send Marion fleeing to the United States. His odyssey seems to rupture all these ties and yet by the time the novel ends, we realize that every step has, in fact, been bringing Marion, Shiva and their extended family closer together as well as toward a resolution of the various plot twists. Training as a surgeon in a Bronx hospital where the only interns are from overseas ("the bloodlines from the Mayflower hadn't trickled down to this zip code", Marion reflects wryly), the finally encounters his birth father in person -- with dramatic consequences -- and has a chance to make peace with Thomas Stone, Shiva -- and himself.
Anyone familiar with Veghese's non-fiction writing (two very compelling memoirs, My Own Country: A Doctor's Story and The Tennis Partner) knows that he is an impeccable prose stylist. But relatively few non-fiction writers can also write wonderful fiction, much less produce this kind of complex drama. Rarer still is that this is a debut novel. Even the remarkable coincidences of the final third of the book never feel anything less than pitch-perfect: a real tribute to both Verghese's carefully-constructed plot and his eloquent, pitch-perfect writing.
It is rare for me to stumble over a novel of such a high caliber, one that creates the kind of characters I have never met before, characters who now are as vividly alive in my mind as any of the real individuals who populate my world. May this be only the first of many novels that Verghese produces for us, his lucky readers.
The beginning of the book just went on and on, with Sister Mary Joseph Praise giving birth to the twins in a clinic in Ethiopia. I think the first twenty-five percent of the book was the birthing process, and personally, I didn't need all those details. When Sister Mary Joseph dies in childbirth, the father, Thomas Stone, suddenly leaves in his grief, never to return. This leaves a couple of unmarried surgeons, Ghosh and Hema, to raise the boys as their own. They name the boys Marion and Shiva and create a home together, making an unlikely instant family.
Ghosh is a good man, and has had an attraction to Hema for quite some time. He does not hesitate to help her raise these boys after their parents are no longer available. When he decides to ask Hema to marry him, he rejoices when she agrees to commit to a marriage in one-year increments. After that year, they can decide if they want to renew their arrangement. I thought this was a comical situation, but after years have gone by, also romantic.
Most of the story was told by Marion's viewpoint. This worked well for me as I enjoyed getting to know his character, his fears, likes, and dislikes. The part that was unbelievable for me, and I think I actually put my Kindle down and said, "Give me a break," was when he described his journey through the birth canal. Really? How many of us remember that?
Through Marion's world, we watch these boys grow up into young men. We get an up-close look at the turmoil in Ethiopia, which I found very interesting. That was probably my favorite part of the book as I had no idea what caused the discontent in the country. We follow them as their family bond grows stronger, and as Marion falls in love. Marion carries this love in his heart, even when he flees the country to study medicine in the United States. Shiva stays in Ethiopia practicing and perfecting his medical procedures in Ethiopia.
I am not going to give away any more of this book. Although I didn't really care for it, I am glad that I finally read it. I will tell you that most of my book club read it and loved it! One gal even started reading it again after she finished it! With themes of survival, betrayal, love, and family, I have to admit that it does make for an interesting book club selection. There was some beautiful writing in this book so although I didn't love it, I'm sure many of you will.
I'm an English major and a lawyer. I love to read. I did not love this book. Overflowing w unnecessary details that distract from the story. I enjoyed the history and cultural insight, but think it would have benefitted from some further editing.
If you want to read a good, long book - read Pat Conroy. Not this.