It is a rare book that instructs without preaching, touches emotionally without being maudlin, and delves into the intricacies of the human condition with humor, compassion and deep wisdom. This novel does all of those magnificently. The setting is in a mission hospital in Ethiopia, the narrating character is one of twins born there under mysterious circumstances, and the plot revolves around the events and personal interactions among a cast of colorful and diverse people. The author has woven these together with amazing and admirable skill into a novel of both sweeping breadth and touching intimacy.
As a personal aside, I'd like to say this: after sixty-seven years as a voracious and eclectic reader I had thought the time was past when I'd read a book that would involve me intellectually and emotionally. I am grateful to have lived long enough to have read this book. Thank you, Abraham Verghese.
Note, 8/30/2011: Last week my daughter just asked for a good read, and I referred her to this book. She called yesterday to tell me how much she is enjoying it, and commented on the wisdom she finds woven into the story. I'm seventy now, and have read the book over several times. It is a true classic.