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An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others set in 1960s & 1970s Ethiopia and 1980s America. Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others set in 1960s & 1970s Ethiopia and 1980s America. Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him. An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.


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An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others set in 1960s & 1970s Ethiopia and 1980s America. Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others set in 1960s & 1970s Ethiopia and 1980s America. Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him. An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.

30 review for Cutting for Stone

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not. It is statistically improbable that I will read a book as good as this one anytime soon. Although I’ll admit it starts off slowly, I found that the depths of this novel are revealed as the protagonist’s life unfolds. Something of a bildungsroman, Cutting for Stone focuses on a pair of twin boys who are born and raised in an African missionary hospital. Their story combines elements of Indian and Ethiopian lang The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not. It is statistically improbable that I will read a book as good as this one anytime soon. Although I’ll admit it starts off slowly, I found that the depths of this novel are revealed as the protagonist’s life unfolds. Something of a bildungsroman, Cutting for Stone focuses on a pair of twin boys who are born and raised in an African missionary hospital. Their story combines elements of Indian and Ethiopian language and culture, third world medicine, sexual awakening, political revolution, foreign travel, and of course, and easily my favorite, emotional and complex family drama. Written in a style of prose that allows one to forget the author is even there, Verghese really captures what it means to be human—that the frailty of life isn’t distinct from the strength of the spirit, but that one complements the other. ShivaMarion’s story is about as moving as it gets, and I’ve got a few tear stains on my Kindle to prove it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    But it was only now, near the end, and far too late, that the pieces suddenly - dreadfully - clicked into place. Like a long Tetris piece slamming down, making a whole block of mystery blink and vanish. Only now did he realize what suddenly seemed so obvious: everyone who had suggested this book to him – every single one – was a middle-aged woman. This book…it was about the importance of family. A wave of cold horror washed over him. It would take months of porn and comic books to counteract this But it was only now, near the end, and far too late, that the pieces suddenly - dreadfully - clicked into place. Like a long Tetris piece slamming down, making a whole block of mystery blink and vanish. Only now did he realize what suddenly seemed so obvious: everyone who had suggested this book to him – every single one – was a middle-aged woman. This book…it was about the importance of family. A wave of cold horror washed over him. It would take months of porn and comic books to counteract this book’s effect. Months.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    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 mi 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ayaz

    “My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts. They realize that no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.” (Cutting for Stone, pg 434) More than a few people who’ve read the novel mentioned to me that they wanted to discontinue reading the novel. And I understood what they meant, when I finished reading Cutting for Stone this last week “My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts. They realize that no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.” (Cutting for Stone, pg 434) More than a few people who’ve read the novel mentioned to me that they wanted to discontinue reading the novel. And I understood what they meant, when I finished reading Cutting for Stone this last weekend. I had trouble with the point of view. Unlike Frankie in Angela’s Ashes, Marion, the protagonist, is an adult all along, and mono-tonal. Mr. Verghese doesn’t give Marion the privilege of his own voice. Marion is smothered by adult language, betrayed by the medical jargon, which is overbearing ultimately, as well as weak writing—this last piece was a surprise to me. The idiom in some places puts me right in 2011 America, when in fact, we’re in Ethiopia for most part of the novel—mid 1900’s onward. Also, an overuse of similes was irritating, and kept dragging the writing down, but most importantly, the reader can’t get to Marion’s soul, because weak language confounds the reader. Moreover, the shifting points of view are shoddy, and in fact, weaken the intensity of emotion that existed briefly when Dr. Thomas Stone is trying to deliver the twins. By the way, this was the most poignant scene of the novel, and then the novel degenerates slowly and painfully for the 100’s of pages to come. Probably the lowest point of the novel is the coincidence (you’ll find far too many coincidental meetings and appearances etc) of Genet and Marion meeting in the US. Marion is set up to be a romantic by the author, and had saved his virginity for Genet. But then enjoys a grotesque intercourse, which involves urine, blood and vaginal fluids. Marion is so turned on that he goes at it again. If I didn’t feel terrible for Genet by then, I certainly did at that point. I am not sure that Mr. Verghese wanted Marion to be narcissistic and sadistic (“I grabbed her shoulder and pulled her to me hard. I smelled her fever, and the scent of blood and sex and urine. I came again, pg.598)—but Mr. Verghese came pretty close here. But the novel had unraveled for me earlier. Mr.Verghese simply has the hardest time developing female characters. They play stereotypical roles, except for Marion’s mother, who had the potential to be very interesting as a developed character, but the author, again “uses” her as a plot device (wish not to reveal how for those who’ve not read the novel yet). Hema, his adopted mother also has wonderful potential of becoming an interesting character, but remains flat throughout. The male characters dialogue is a notch better, but the dialogue throughout the novel is tiresome, and most characters sound like each other. There is some good dialogue from Marion’s adopted father, Ghosh and Dr. Deepak, but not enough to save the novel. And poor Marion, remains a prisoner to a very brilliant individual as a novelist in Mr. Verghese, who tries desperately but fails to develop a nuanced protagonist--maybe the reason people wanted to put the novel down. I think if the novel was cut into half, it may have worked for me, given the good writing would have blossomed and caught the attention of the reader. Here’s one other passage I liked: “ In America, my initial impression was that death or the possibility of it always seemed to come as a surprise, as if we took it for granted that we were immortal and that death was just an option.” (Cutting for Stone, pg 486)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Recently in San Francisco I attended a reading by Abraham Verghese, who has written my favorite book of the year: CUTTING FOR STONE. I'd gotten it from the library, and after @150 pages was so in love with it that when I heard he was going to be at the store, I returned the library copy (there's a huge line waiting for it), and bought a copy just to have the pleasure of his signature. We actually had a little chat after the reading, while he happened by on his way to his car. He asked why I'd ch Recently in San Francisco I attended a reading by Abraham Verghese, who has written my favorite book of the year: CUTTING FOR STONE. I'd gotten it from the library, and after @150 pages was so in love with it that when I heard he was going to be at the store, I returned the library copy (there's a huge line waiting for it), and bought a copy just to have the pleasure of his signature. We actually had a little chat after the reading, while he happened by on his way to his car. He asked why I'd chosen his book in the first place, and I didn't have the answer, which occurred to me (like esprit d'escalier) until after he'd left: it's not the initial choosing of a book, but the journey the author takes you on that is important. I think that Tom Wolfe's I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS was the book that changed my life, because when I was about 50 pages in, I realized I couldn't and therefore wouldn't finish that book despite having purchased it in hard cover. Life is too short, and besides, it doesn't honor an author if you are resenting him with every page just to reach the end. So, I actually don't finish some of the books I open. There aren't enough days left in my life to squander on books I'm not enjoying. All that being said, I wish I'd thought of that when talking with this soft spoken, gentle man, and had been able to relay to him that the journey he was taking me on was so wonderful, I didn't care if I ever reached the destination. It is a vibrant, living story peopled with individuals to care about, sensual writing with more than a dash of humor and a frisson of suspense. What I did have the chance to tell him was this: I was furious with an imbicile in the audience who, if you can actually believe this, whined "Why did you have to make it so long?" I told Dr. Verghese that it reminded me of that scene in Amadeus, when the emperor complains "there are too many notes," and Mozart, puzzled, says "It has just the right amount of notes."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    "Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?" This book is both brilliant and breathtaking. I absolutely loved it. Abraham Verghese is not only a distinguished physician, but an extremely talented writer. The prose is some of the very best I have encountered in a novel, and the story itself is hugely compelling. Verghese takes his time setting up the story and introducing the cast of characters that will be thoroughly developed throughout the course of th "Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?" This book is both brilliant and breathtaking. I absolutely loved it. Abraham Verghese is not only a distinguished physician, but an extremely talented writer. The prose is some of the very best I have encountered in a novel, and the story itself is hugely compelling. Verghese takes his time setting up the story and introducing the cast of characters that will be thoroughly developed throughout the course of the novel. I gobbled this stuff right up! It’s a book about home and belonging – both to your country and to your loved ones. Family is defined by those people to whom we feel the greatest connection, whether through blood or through the fulfillment of our greatest needs in life, including love, loyalty and dependability. In Addis Ababa, near the soaring heights of the Entoto Mountains in Ethiopia, Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born to an Indian who is both nun and nurse and a British surgeon working together within the walls of Missing, a missionary hospital. Literally joined at birth, the twins also share a bond of brotherhood and loss that will be both strengthened and painfully tested throughout their lives. As the boys grow, they also learn the practice of medicine, both in its clinical form as well as its very compassionate service to human beings. This knowledge is gleaned through the most admirable of characters, Hema and Ghosh. I loved these two, but in particular Ghosh who is possibly one of my favorite literary personalities of all time! There is a plethora of medical descriptions here that I found quite fascinating. One is not required to have a medical-related degree to enjoy this book, but a curiosity and appreciation for the field of medicine will go a long way here. Having worked in clinical research, I did not have any difficulties – as long as my handy e-dictionary was close by for those terms unfamiliar to me. I have to issue a little word of warning here for those that may feel a bit squeamish when presented with some of the more graphic details of medicine. Although I may have flinched once or twice, that didn’t stop me from reading! Due to family social ties to some very powerful forces within Ethiopia, Marion and Shiva find that they are not exempt from the effects of the political upheaval during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. When catastrophe lands on their own doorstep, the twins will learn even more about the true meaning of family. I found that I learned quite a lot about Ethiopian history and current events and it was all very illuminating. I gained a better understanding of the geography of this African country and absorbed some very vivid images like this one: "I stepped out to the lawn. I remember the air that night, and how it was so brisk that it could revive the dead. The fragrance of eucalyptus stoking a home fire, the smell of wet grass, of dung fuel, of tobacco, of swamp air, and the perfume of hundreds of roses – this was the scent of Missing. No, it was the scent of a continent." Heartbreaking and uplifting, Cutting for Stone is a treasure that I highly recommend. Medicine, foreign cultures, politics, coming-of-age, abandonment, betrayal, and love are all elements woven together to construct a real masterpiece of writing. The ending was both poignant and astonishing. I loved it. "The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Petra Eggs

    Update I didn't like the writing of this book at all, but now, after reading the Verghese's foreword to When Breath Becomes Air and being unable to get over the florid and verbose writing of that either and other people agreeing with that, I just wonder how so many people enjoyed the very similar writing in this book. _____ I tried to read this book several times but it didn't hold my attention at all. I just couldn't get into it. I realise that I am in a minority among friends for not swooning ov Update I didn't like the writing of this book at all, but now, after reading the Verghese's foreword to When Breath Becomes Air and being unable to get over the florid and verbose writing of that either and other people agreeing with that, I just wonder how so many people enjoyed the very similar writing in this book. _____ I tried to read this book several times but it didn't hold my attention at all. I just couldn't get into it. I realise that I am in a minority among friends for not swooning over the very brilliance of this book and the writing, oh the writing... but I didn't swoon. I slept.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    My favorite parts of this sizable tome were, of course, the medical jargon and the lyrically gory descriptions of diseases and surgeries. I guess, by now I have finally and irreversibly crossed that thin line between sanity and medicine. Yes, all the descriptions of diseases and surgeries, and the handy medical mneumonics were like music to my ears. Really. Reading Verghese's Cutting for Stone reminded me of the conversations that I tend to have with my friends in the medical field - they inevita My favorite parts of this sizable tome were, of course, the medical jargon and the lyrically gory descriptions of diseases and surgeries. I guess, by now I have finally and irreversibly crossed that thin line between sanity and medicine. Yes, all the descriptions of diseases and surgeries, and the handy medical mneumonics were like music to my ears. Really. Reading Verghese's Cutting for Stone reminded me of the conversations that I tend to have with my friends in the medical field - they inevitably will deteriorate into the full-on medical jargon-fest. And they will become hard (and boring) to follow for the 'outsiders'. And I love it in a strange way. Insanity, like I said. Tell me, in what other fiction book can you read about surgery for volvulus, vaginal fistula repairs, detailed C-section and transplant surgery description, and medical conditions that are becoming increasingly rare in the US and therefore are fascinating? Where else in fiction do you get a crash review course on different kinds of cardiac murmurs or vesicovaginal fistulae and the history of their repair? Right, I thought so. Medicine is so seamlessly integrated in the very structure of this novel that it becomes a character in its own right. Nicely done, Dr. Verghese. “I'm ashamed of our human capacity to hurt and maim one another, to desecrate the body. Yet it allows me to see the cabalistic harmony of heart peeking out behind lung, of liver and spleen consulting each other under the dome of the diaphragm -- these things leave me speechless.” Oh, but I guess you also care about the story, and not just about my dithyrambs about the medical jargon? Okay, okay. Here is the brief synopsis of 600-plus pages: “Wasn't that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted.” Twin boys Shiva and Marion (*) are born in a poor 'Missing' Hospital in Ethiopia to an Indian nun (who died in childbirth status post a horrific and vividly described Cesarean section) and a socially inept but talented British surgeon (who promptly exits the twins' lives mere minutes after their birth, having almost crushed their initially conjoined heads(*) Marion is named after Marion Sims, the "father of American gynecology", who in the 19th century pioneered the operation for repair of vesicovaginal fistula (the abnormal communication between urethra and vagina with all the unpleasant and horrific consequences) - the operation that Shiva performs in this book.Marion Sims' work became a subject of much controversy in the 20th century since he practiced his craft without anesthesia on slave women, with unknown consent of his subjects on some of whom he operated about 30 times.The past of medicine is very often a very scary and cruel place.The boys are adopted and raised by an eccentric couple of Indian doctors at Missing - Hema and Ghosh, who in an adorable and sweet way 'renew' their marriage each year. We witness them growing up around the hospital, learning medicine from a very tender age, living through periods of Ethiopian civil unrest, and, of course, girl troubles (Genet - the tragic girl who always tragically plays the tragic role in the brothers' tragic lives). Both brothers decide to pursue medicine - self-taught Shiva is a gynecologist while Marion (view spoiler)[completes his surgical residency in the USA and meets his estranged father (hide spoiler)] . More tragedy ensues, forever changing the lives of the twins, and everyone learns the value of love and family through much sadness. And it's both a bit cheesy and melodramatic and touching. “What we are fighting isn't godlessness--this is the most godly country on earth. We aren't even fighting disease. Its poverty. Money for food, medicines... that helps. When we cannot cure or save a life, our patients can at least feel cared for. It should be a basic human right.” I also rather enjoyed the descriptions of practice of medicine in a poor Ethiopian society. You can't help but sadly laugh reading about money spent by the donors on sending Bibles to the hospital while the cash-strapped hospital desperately needs equipment and medications. The lack of resources leading to the necessity of excellent physical exam skills combined with some ingenuity was really interesting. And the stark contrasts between medicine in the US and Ethiopia were fascinating as well, reminding me of the stories I hear from the physicians who go to practice medicine in Africa for a while - surreal and fascinating and yet painfully real, with stark realities of poverty dictating medical care. “God will judge us, Mr. Harris, by--by what we did to relieve the suffering of our fellow human beings. I don't think God cares what doctrine we embrace.” Now, when stripped from the medicine component, the story itself did not fascinate me much. Mainly - because I did not care much for Marion, the narrator. His narrative voice is very monotone, as well as quite judgmental and, frankly, quite irritating. After hundreds and hundreds of pages listening to his voice, I still did not feel that I knew the character much. His neverending obsession with Genet was bordering on unhealthy and frightening. The subtle mystical elements of the connection between the twins Shiva and Marion are hinted at but never really followed through; we never really get to see much of it but are told without showing. Finally (view spoiler)[meeting his father (hide spoiler)] did not have the expected emotional effect, either. The pacing was uneven as well, with the story dragging through the long sections of the narrative. And a word of warning - the description of a certain intercourse in this book is one of the most nausea-inducing things that I've ever read. Way too many bodily fluids are involved for my comfort level - and I HAVE been on the receiving end of way too many bodily fluids as a work hazard. So yeah. Be warned. The female characters were not very well-developed and weak. Genet felt caricaturish at times. Hema had potential, but did not quite live up to it. The rest of female characters are kinda just there. But in all honesty, male characters were not that much better. Marion and Shiva's surrogate father, Ghosh, is the only character who I felt actually came to life in this book. He is shown as intelligent, kind, and compassionate, and yet still flawed. He is the only character for whom I actually cared at all. “Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.” -------------------------------------------- The verdict: 3 stars for the beautiful descriptions of medicine and a notable quotability factor, but not as much for the story itself. I am not sure whether it will appeal to a non-medical person - maybe if you have more of sentimentality than I do. “According to Shiva, life is in the end about fixing holes. Shiva didn't speak in metaphors. fixing holes is precisely what he did. Still, it's an apt metaphor for our profession. But there's another kind of hole, and that is the wound that divides family. Sometimes this wound occurs at the moment of birth, sometimes it happens later. We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We'll leave much unfinished for the next generation.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    James

    3.5 of 5 stars to Abraham Verghese's novel, Cutting for Stone, which was a book club selection about 7 years ago. At first, I wasn't sure I'd like the book, as I expected it to be quite sad. And back then, I wasn't interested in reading sad or emotional books; however, this one was quite good and I waffled between a 3 and a 4. I settled on a 3 only because I felt it was a little too formal / stiff for the type of book it felt like it should have been -- still above average to me, as far as books 3.5 of 5 stars to Abraham Verghese's novel, Cutting for Stone, which was a book club selection about 7 years ago. At first, I wasn't sure I'd like the book, as I expected it to be quite sad. And back then, I wasn't interested in reading sad or emotional books; however, this one was quite good and I waffled between a 3 and a 4. I settled on a 3 only because I felt it was a little too formal / stiff for the type of book it felt like it should have been -- still above average to me, as far as books go. The basics: Twin brothers born in Ethiopia, Africa. The mother dies during childbirth and the father will need to raise them, but fate intervenes and they are separated. The book chronicles the separate life of the two boys and the connections between them. It's about the differences between America and Africa, love and fear, focus and desire. There are many surprises in the book, all leading you to root for certain things to happen in each of the relationships throughout the story. I had never heard of the author before, and this is the only read I've tackled by him, so far. But he's got several other books and short stories. For me, it was a little too focused on the medical side of their personalities / careers / activities. Not in a bad way, just enough that it didn't burst at its seams as a superstar book. I also felt like it was a little light in the action at some points, but it certainly makes up for it in some major ways in the last third. If you are interested in other cultures, different ways of doing things and what happens to twins when they aren't always near one another... it's a great read. I'd suggest reading a lot of reviews to decide if it's for you... as it's different than most books of its genres or sub-genre. About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. [polldaddy poll=9729544] [polldaddy poll=9719251]

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate Merriman

    Beautifully written, engrossing novel plants you deeply in the passion of practicing medicine, winds you intimately into the cloth of Ethiopia. Verghese uses language so elegantly and paces his story so perfectly that I was totally transported. I finished the book feeling homesick for Addis Ababa, although I have never been there. When I signed up (in several places) to review early editions of books on my blog and in other viral / social media places (like Facebook), I had that little hope that I Beautifully written, engrossing novel plants you deeply in the passion of practicing medicine, winds you intimately into the cloth of Ethiopia. Verghese uses language so elegantly and paces his story so perfectly that I was totally transported. I finished the book feeling homesick for Addis Ababa, although I have never been there. When I signed up (in several places) to review early editions of books on my blog and in other viral / social media places (like Facebook), I had that little hope that I would be one of the first to discover a great new treasure and then be part of making sure the world knew about it. I was sent the uncorrected proof courtesy of an offer from Alfred A. Knopf in the daily "Shelf Awareness" email newsletter. Thanks, Al. The good news is - this early edition of Cutting for Stone is exactly that rare gem I was hoping to find! The slightly less good news is - so many more high-profile reviewers are already raving about it, so Verghese probably doesn't need my help in the slightest. Still, I feel lucky to be one of the first readers. It's hard to imagine another book unseating this as my favorite of 2009. For me, it was right up there with East of Eden. Now excuse me while I run out to eat a hearty meal at the one spot in all of Austin serving Injera and veggie Wott.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    I'm going to start this review doing something I've never done before and that is tell what I didn't like right away. The reason for this is because I want to spend the rest of the time enumerating many of the good points. Believe me, there are a lot of those! The only two faults I see in Cutting for Stone is that there is a lot of medical jargon. I'm surprised at the number of people who have read the book and liked it considering the length. Fortunately, my ten years of working in the medical f I'm going to start this review doing something I've never done before and that is tell what I didn't like right away. The reason for this is because I want to spend the rest of the time enumerating many of the good points. Believe me, there are a lot of those! The only two faults I see in Cutting for Stone is that there is a lot of medical jargon. I'm surprised at the number of people who have read the book and liked it considering the length. Fortunately, my ten years of working in the medical field came in handy.However, I could understand other readers either having to keep a dictionary handy or just giving up on the book. Secondly, as a friend pointed out, the characters stay kind of hazy throughout the book. This is hard to explain, because they each have definite personalities, but they don't come into clear focus. More about this later in the "good" section. Okay, the negative part is over. On to the good! I read this in conjunction with two other GR friends and enjoyed the experience very much! Their insights and opinions contributed greatly. One thing we all agreed on was that Ghosh was a terrific character in this book. If I could wave my hands over a book and make a character come alive, he'd be one of the ones at the top of my list. What's not to like? So many times, in the process of trying to make realistic characters, I think authors lose sight of the fact that there are some people in this world who are truly good. Before anyone who hasn't read this book, thinks that Ghosh is a goody-goody, he's not. He had his faults. These come to light towards the end of the book, but they don't detract from him because the reader watches him grow into this unselfish, loving, caring person. I loved the characters in this book. As a twin, the twin-think described early on in the book is so right on. Verghese does an awesome job of allowing the reader to see how the twins see themselves as ShivaMarion until the day one of them ventures into his own individual world. There are some wonderful contrasts in this story that express differences in cultures and people. Shiva vs. Marion; Ethiopia operating theaters vs American operating rooms;Ethiopia rich vs American poor; bad Ethiopian government vs even worse Ethiopian government; and so much more.... Sometimes, I read books and wonder where the title came from. Not this one. There were two instances in the book where the phrase cutting for stone was used. In the beginning, it seems that it is an Ethiopian term for surgery and then later in the book women needing fistula surgery carried placards reading "cutting for Stone" implying a need for Shiva Stone's medical expertise. Since I love reading about other cultures, this book enlightened me in regards to what prison is like in Ethiopia. The living conditions, lack of medical care available to the majority of Ethiopians, the daily fear, corruption in everyday life are generally born by the common person. Even though the characters (with the exception of Ghosh) didn't really have faces, somehow experiencing Ethiopia made that aspect of the book a minor complaint. This is a book I'm glad I read. 4.5 stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    Annalisa

    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 w 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    Before you read this book, consider this: the book was printed with an average of 425 words per page for 541 pages in an almost minus zero font size. That jerked my chain a bit, so I did not begin reading this book in quite the right frame of mind. But who in their right mind would like to put down a book beginning like this:"My brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of Grace 1954. We took our first breath in the thin air, 8 000 Before you read this book, consider this: the book was printed with an average of 425 words per page for 541 pages in an almost minus zero font size. That jerked my chain a bit, so I did not begin reading this book in quite the right frame of mind. But who in their right mind would like to put down a book beginning like this:"My brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of Grace 1954. We took our first breath in the thin air, 8 000 feet above sea level, of the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa." "Bound by birth, we were driven apart by bitter betrayal. No surgeon can heal the wound that divides two brothers. Where silk and steel fail, story must succeed." The twins, Drs. Marion , and Shiva Praise Stone, were born to a nun, Sister Mary Joseph Praise from the Carmalite Order of Madras, who were sent with Sister Anjali to darkest Africa to serve in hospitals. She would end up at the "Missing"(Mission) hospital of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, via Aden in Yemen, with a dark secret she cold never share. "Sister Mary Joseph was a Malayali Christian. She could trace her faith back to St. Thomas's arrival in India from Damascus in A.D. 52. "Doubting" Thomas built his first churches in Karala well before St. Peter got to Rome." "To her parents' chagrin, my mother became a Carmalite none,abandoning the ancient Syrian Christian tradition of St. Thomas to embrace (in her parents view) this Johnny-come-lately, pope-worshipping sect... It was a good thing her parents didn't know that she was also a nurse, which to them would mean that she soiled her hands like an untouchable." In the first 109 pages the background to the birth is introduced and when the birth finally takes place with high drama, I sighed with relief. Pardon my momental snarkyness, but I almost put down the book and moved on. At first the book did not tickle my cor musculi really, it often rather annoyed the Musculus sphincter ani internus instead! The good thing was that the book distinctly distinguished itself from a romance novel by allocating 109 pages to the birth of the twins instead of to coitus, although it did challenge my knowledge of Latin and anatomy to the extreme. The good thing about romance novels is that they do not use Latin a thousand times to breath, whisper, huff, puff, holler and cry, "I Love You." This book did not do it either, thank goodness, but I was holding my breath! With the intensity and detail the characters' lives, especially those of the twins, were initially colored in with Latin so lavishly splashed all over it, anything was possible! And everything pointed to a great love story in the making after all! Yes, I was equally as impressed as I was slightly blowing steam off through my nares by being constantly dropped into the world of Latin by a surgeon (Dr.Thomas Stone) whose work was his life hiding his "social retardiness" - as expressed by his colleagues. I did not want to read a medical journal at all ! The love of Latin genetically moves forward to the next generation. Marion would as a young boy discover the magic: "I loved those Latin words for their dignity, their foreigness and that my tongue had to wrap around them. I felt that in learning the special language of a scholarly order, I was amassing a kind of force. This was the poor and noble side of the world, uncorrupted by secrets and trickery."Dr. Gosh was of the opinion that the language of love and medicine was the same "Take off your shirt. Open your mouth. Take a deep breath.". The surgeon, Dr. Thomas Stone, would have disagreed. He would have insisted on Latin near, or on, any bed! That's all he really understood. And this is where I almost gave up on the book, not because it was not well written - it was in fact brilliantly prosed from the start, but because it seemed as though I needed to order a Latin dictionary first and do at least six years of medical school before I could proceed and I was just not in the mood for it! If the storyline was to be taken away, it could have been a well-texted book on practicing medicine in the tropics. As a young boy, Marion would receive his first stethoscope from Dr.Gosh. Was there more in this gift than the eyes could see? Was he trying to teach this boy how to find the secrets behind his parents and he and his brother's birth? : "He invited me into a world that was not secret, but it was well hidden. You needed a guide. You had to know what to look for, but also how to look. You had to exert yourself to see this world. But if you did, if you had that kind of curiosity, if you had an innate interest in the welfare of your fellow human beings, and if you went through that door, a strange thing happened: you left your petty troubles on the threshold. It could be addictive." It is exactly the reason why I just could not put the bloody book down, for, believe me, bloody it was! Buckets full of it! The narrative focuses mostly on the lives of the two twins in their growing up years and which events and people would structure their characters / personalities / destinies. In the end the expression comes to mind: "It is not what happens to you, but how you handle it, that counts." The tale is an intense, well-researched, well-written novel introducing the fascinating societies of Addis Ababa - Ethopia, Madras - India, New York & Boston in the USA. The book blends African politics, people, compassion, love, fast paced adventure and fiction in such a way that all readers from all walks of life, especially hospital-story junkies, interested in this beautiful but harsh African continent, will find some aspect of the book agreeable and worth reading. One of my favorite Mark Twain aphorisms is: "I can live for two months on a good compliment." For me it is not a compliment but strings of words having me wonder around in sheer delirious bliss! Abraham Verghese rooted me to the book with prose like this: "There was three spaced knocks on the door of Matron's office. "Come in," Matron said,and with those words Missing was on a course different than anyone could have imagined. It was at the start of the rainy season, when Addis was stunned into wet submission." There are sweet anecdotal moments such as this: Dr. Marion Praise Stone, the narrator, recounts a moment in their childhood: "In our household, you had to dive into the din and push to the front if you wanted to be heard. The foghorn voice was Ghosh's, echoing and tailing off into laughter. Hema was the songbird, but when provoked her voice was as sharp as Saladin's scimitar,which, according to my Richard the Lion Hearted and the Crusades, could divide a silk scarf allowed to float down onto the blade's edge. Almaz, our cook, may have been silent on the outside, but her lips moved constantly, whether in prayer or song,no one knew. Rosina took silence as a personal offense, and spoke into empty rooms and chattered into cupboards. Genet, almost six years old of age, was showing signs of taking after her mother, telling herself stories about herself in a singsong voice, creating her own mythology." Initially there is a deceitful tranquility present in the rhythm of the prose. The author used an ingenious method to pacify the reader while having an addictive mixture of tension and drama bubbling and boiling underneath. Marion never wanted to sit in the twin-stroller playing with his wooden truck like his brother. Marion wanted an adult view on the world. Rosina had to constantly carry him around. The epiphany, for me, happened here: P.184: "...the kitchen was alive. Steam rises in plumes as Almaz clangs lids on and off the pots. The silver weight on the pressure cooker jiggles and whistles. Almaze's sure hands chop onions, tomatoes, and fresh coriander, making hillocks that dwarf the tiny mounds of ginger and garlic. ... A mad alchemist she throws a pinch of this, a fistful of that, then wets her fingers and flings that moisture into the mortar. She pounds with the pestle, the wet, crunchy thunk thunk soon changes to the sound of stone on stone. ...Mustard seeds explode in the hot oil. She holds a lid over the pan to fend off the missiles. Rat-a-tat! like hail on the tin roof. She adds the cumin seeds, which sizzles, darken and crackle. A dry, fragrant smoke chases out the mustard scent. Only then are the onions added, handfuls of them, and now the sound is that of life being spawned in a primordial fire. Rosina abruptly hands me over to Almaz... I whimper on Almaz's shoulder, perilously close to the bubbling cauldrons. Almaz puts down the laddle and shifts me to her hip. Reaching into her blouse, grunting with effort, she fishes out her breast. "Here it is," she says, putting it in my hands for safekeeping...Almaz, who hardly speaks, resumes stirring, humming a tune. It is as if the breast no more belongs to her than does the laddle."This scene above acted as a metaphor for this book: so seemingly uncomplicated, innocent and serene on the surface, but exploding with energy under the lid! What was hidden in the mixture would ultimately add meaning and definition, like exquisite aromas from a pot-pourri of herbs and spices to the people's lives. The experience will be hot and penetrating; sweet and scrumptious, heavy and often "indigestably" cruel. From then on things started to happen rapidly, the drama increased leaving the reader mesmerized and in complete wonder! The story was brilliantly constructed, although it could have been a 100 pages shorter, in my opinion. There were almost an endless role of "Latinish"-like hospital scenes that leaves the impression of the author expressing opinions through a novel instead of getting his ideas published elsewhere. I was surprised, when thinking back on the role of each person in the narrative, how each one of them made an amazing contribution to the story! The characters was well developed; the denouement at the end of all the elements a huge surprise. The story completes a full unbelievable circle, which really had me sitting back in total amazement. The end left me breathless....and yes speechless...! And when I started recounting all the elements in the book I was amazed at the unusual brilliant tale it was. A Great read!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I hope it’s not too self-indulgent to start with a personal history here. The first I ever heard of this was when Amazon sent me one of those “since you liked x, we recommend y” mails. So right off the bat I was predisposed against it. Who wants some algorithm deciding things for them? [Insert wink that’s more than a little ironic given that I’m in the algo biz myself.] My second time hearing of it was when a nice older lady at a charity book sale was telling me how much she enjoyed it. While I I hope it’s not too self-indulgent to start with a personal history here. The first I ever heard of this was when Amazon sent me one of those “since you liked x, we recommend y” mails. So right off the bat I was predisposed against it. Who wants some algorithm deciding things for them? [Insert wink that’s more than a little ironic given that I’m in the algo biz myself.] My second time hearing of it was when a nice older lady at a charity book sale was telling me how much she enjoyed it. While I don’t automatically dismiss what we might imagine is the Doily and Crumpet Club’s book of the month, I do resist seeing the correlation climb too high. Then came the turning point. My friend, the ever-popular Jason, gave it enthusiastic thumbs up here. He even likened it to Middlesex, one of my favorites. It was only a week later that I saw a copy at the annual book fair in Chicago. The vendor was a worse-for-the-wear guy from downstate with bad teeth and scraggly hair. He seemed to know a lot about every book he had including the Orhan Pamuk my wife picked up. Approval of my choice from the guy more dedicated to books than personal hygiene sealed the deal. And I’m glad. It’s a great story and an even greater education. The bulk of the action is set in a mission hospital in Ethiopia where we learn a lot about medicine (underfunded though it may be) as well as the culture and history of the Selassie-led nation. The book focuses on identical twin boys, Shiva and Marion. They had been joined at the head at birth and were lucky to have survived the separation. Their upbringing was lucky in another way. When in the first hour after birth your mother, a nurse and devout nun from India, dies, and your father from the secret union, a brilliant English surgeon but the one who botched the operation, bolts, you need all the luck you can get. This came in the form of fellow doctors at the mission who adopted them. Hema and Ghosh, the adopting parents, also took in a young girl named Genet along with her servant mother. It was all one big happy family for a while but conflict was inevitable. It came in political, sexual, and moral forms. The narrative sweep extends into adulthood, through armed conflicts, a stint in New York, and medical traumas. These different stories matter to us more because the characters are so well-developed. You’ll be pleased to know that emotional investments here earn returns rarely seen in assets these days. Verghese himself is a doctor so his book about doctors might easily have been didactic or hagiographic. I never got that sense, though. The technical details of surgery were integrated well within the story. They never seemed gratuitous. Both Marion, who narrates, and Shiva were also doctors. It was good to have a narrator who was three-dimensional and imperfect (especially when it came to Genet, his fleshly idée fixe). And he puffed less than he might have about his profession. I never thought of the book as preachy either, despite its moral elements. The only real flaws I perceived were 1) the first person account that occasionally became too omniscient, and, 2) a case of coincidence near the end that felt like an odd polyhedral peg somehow winding up at the exact hole to fit through. The feeling of contrivance broke the spell, but it was cast again soon enough. The later tightening in my throat was testament to that. Verghese is also a very self-assured writer. In combination, knowing how to save lives, teaching at Stanford, and attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop must translate to confidence on the page. I certainly won’t hold his writing education against him (though I might have preferred hearing that his talent was purely a function of genius, not, in part, programmed). In any case, it was that unobtrusive style of writing that calls very little attention to itself. The pacing was good, the nonlinearities were effective (never confusing), and the sense of foreshadowing was masterful. Who cares if it was just good coaching – it worked. I’ve been vacillating between 4 and 5 stars. It’s Friday today and my spirit is more generous. So 5 it is. Besides, when I think back on what made me like this book so much, it comes down to its genuine appeal to our better angels. It was more than just platitudes. Faith and doctrine were trumped by real compassion and attention to those who suffer. It made me want to be a better person. Read it and see if you agree. Then we’ll meet for injera bread and spicy wot and talk about Ghosh (so caring and wise), Hema (the talented obstetrician and protective mom), Matron (the brave and pragmatic head of the mission), and ShivaMarion (the twinned entity who continued to sleep head-to-head throughout childhood, had an almost psychic connection despite many differences, and were fascinating to observe in how their shared empathy and antipathy played out).

  15. 5 out of 5

    warren Cassell

    This is the one that started me. I read a galley and it will be published February 2. It was a sublime reading experience, the best novel I have read in several years. Back in the old days of Just Books, I probably would not have let a customer out of the store without the book in hand. In some places that might be considered pushy. In Greenwich, it was a gushing "Thanks Warren for putting this book in my hands." Anyway, this is the story of twin doctors separated at their birth in a hospital in This is the one that started me. I read a galley and it will be published February 2. It was a sublime reading experience, the best novel I have read in several years. Back in the old days of Just Books, I probably would not have let a customer out of the store without the book in hand. In some places that might be considered pushy. In Greenwich, it was a gushing "Thanks Warren for putting this book in my hands." Anyway, this is the story of twin doctors separated at their birth in a hospital in Ethiopia. The mother who had been an Indian nurse/nun died as a result of denying the pregnancy's existence and not getting any prenatal care. The twins are raised by two Indian doctors who bring them up as their own children. The mother is a very independent woman who will marry her colleague only on condition they will renew their vows every year. The twins grow up to be a physician (what else) and a medical researcher. Their journey as a family and as individuals envelops you more and more every page. This too was outstanding

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!! I'm back again --(my friend Debbie told me I could 'edit' my own review')... I want to say 'something' about this book again. I've given many 5 stars on books I've read ---which then makes THIS book a 5 ++++ star book! Its exceptional! Every book club in the Bay Area was reading it at one time. The author 'always' had PACKED FULL rooms of people coming to hear him speak on this book. (I heard him speak twice). Much could be discussed about this wonderful novel. Note: There are t FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!! I'm back again --(my friend Debbie told me I could 'edit' my own review')... I want to say 'something' about this book again. I've given many 5 stars on books I've read ---which then makes THIS book a 5 ++++ star book! Its exceptional! Every book club in the Bay Area was reading it at one time. The author 'always' had PACKED FULL rooms of people coming to hear him speak on this book. (I heard him speak twice). Much could be discussed about this wonderful novel. Note: There are two graphic scenes --(remember --a medical doctor wrote it) --- but this story takes you into a world where you loose yourself -- Also--the writing is breathtaking! I've read all 3 of this authors books (the other two are 'non-fiction). I've liked them all --- Yet--I also have a special heart for his other book called "The Tennis Player".

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    For years now this wonderful book has been sitting on my unread books shelf. It has occasionally whispered my name, but I have always told it “next time.” I am so pleased that I finally broke that pattern, for this book is one of those not to be missed experiences. (Permission granted to my friend, Candi, to say “I told you so.”) The author, Abraham Verghese, is a physician, and his experience and knowledge come through in spades. They add a level of realism and veracity to the story that might b For years now this wonderful book has been sitting on my unread books shelf. It has occasionally whispered my name, but I have always told it “next time.” I am so pleased that I finally broke that pattern, for this book is one of those not to be missed experiences. (Permission granted to my friend, Candi, to say “I told you so.”) The author, Abraham Verghese, is a physician, and his experience and knowledge come through in spades. They add a level of realism and veracity to the story that might be missing in the hands of a non-professional. However, it is not his medical expertise that shines brightest in this story, it is his understanding of human beings and his ability to create characters who are real and warm and vulnerable. Every time I thought I knew where this book was going, I got a surprise. Every surprise was well conceived, fit the narrative, and propelled the story forward to its natural conclusion. I grew to love Marion Stone, our narrator, and through him the multitude of interesting people who were so unlike anyone I have ever known and yet so human as to be instantly recognizable. Dr. Ghosh is someone I will never forget--the kind of man you hope to find somewhere in your life, a person to trust, love and learn from. Cutting for Stone goes right into my favorites folder and on my keepers shelf at home. If it is sitting on your shelf, pick it up and read it. You will be glad you did.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Arah-Lynda

    A deeply affecting story of life and death and the wonders of medicine. It is hard to beleive this is a work of fiction so compelling is the bond between two brothers and the extended family that colours their lives. Brimming with medical insight and vividly set in mid-century Ethiopia this tale transports you to another time and place. Family, blood, betrayal and forgiveness... Cutting for Stone is a requiem to the healing power of love.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    All the stars! I loved this story!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    As usual, I will not summarize the plot here, merely comment on my reaction to this book. The essences of the story are many- love/lust, heartbreak and humiliation,the ability to forgive and the trials and tribulations of life and death. It is difficult to know where to start with all of these complex, interwoven themes. Verghese has undertaken a novel which is very broad and ambitious in scope. His geographic sweep travels from Asia, to Africa, to America, with the major part in Ethiopia. The la As usual, I will not summarize the plot here, merely comment on my reaction to this book. The essences of the story are many- love/lust, heartbreak and humiliation,the ability to forgive and the trials and tribulations of life and death. It is difficult to know where to start with all of these complex, interwoven themes. Verghese has undertaken a novel which is very broad and ambitious in scope. His geographic sweep travels from Asia, to Africa, to America, with the major part in Ethiopia. The landscape and the people are portrayed realistically and with clarity. In Addis Ababa, one can clearly envision the poverty and the discrepancies between the classes that existed there. Although the chronology of the political turmoil in Ethiopia is altered for the purposes of the story, it is evident how the populace was efected. An interesting feature is the title, Cutting for Stone , itself. I spent much time thinking about this through most of my reading. There are references to this term in several areas of the narrative, one most clearly in the latter part of the story. One could conjecture that it alludes to Dr. Stone, a surgeon. The Hippocratic Oath includes, "I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest: I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art." The practise of "cutting for stone" was also employed at one time to root out mental illness with cranial trephination. My medical experience served me well while reading. For the most part,Verghese's profession as a physician and author was well blended with his accuracy and extensive descriptions of medical conditions and procedures. Although I found these factors stimulating and enjoyable, I wondered how those less immersed in medicine might react. There were a few occasions where I thought certain surgical procedures strained credibility. In particular, the conjoining of the twins was a half-hearted effort. The last part of the book seemed to disintegrate with many coincidences occuring. The use of the backstory was also disturbing. Many events seemed to have happened previously so that when the reader becomes fully informed, the information seems belated and less well integrated into the novel. Despite any negative criticisms I appreciated Verghese's ambitious eforts and enjoyed reading this novel.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Such a great book..,

  22. 4 out of 5

    Quinn Barrett

    Cutting for Stone was like a challenging round of golf for me. Sorry for the analogy, but here goes for anyone who has never played the most enjoyable, yet frustrating sport ever invented. I grew up playing all sorts of sports: tennis, softball, volleyball, etc. With most sports you can have a great game, but one error can ruin your enjoyment and subsequent memory of that experience. Conversely, most of us suck big time at golf. We hook, we slice, we lose ball after ball and yet if all we have is Cutting for Stone was like a challenging round of golf for me. Sorry for the analogy, but here goes for anyone who has never played the most enjoyable, yet frustrating sport ever invented. I grew up playing all sorts of sports: tennis, softball, volleyball, etc. With most sports you can have a great game, but one error can ruin your enjoyment and subsequent memory of that experience. Conversely, most of us suck big time at golf. We hook, we slice, we lose ball after ball and yet if all we have is one great shot in 18 holes, it becomes the most exciting memorable moment of our day. And it's that excitement which drives us back to the golf course to recapture those moments of elation. Cutting for Stone was a tough book for me. It's well written with lots of detail about medicine and surgery which wasn't always enjoyable, but I struggled through it because there are certain gems embedded throughout the story that caused me to ponder bigger issues like life choices, family relationships the greater journey and meaning of life. The book is long, but epic in it's scope. I'm not sure how the author could have shortened the story. The level of detail was both important and frustrating. It's what helps the reader live the story along with the characters and I love a good character driven novel even if I don't always understand their motivation completely. Don't let my review scare you... give it a try. I promise you'll only remember the best parts.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    Some books have a hypnotic effect and they leave you in a state of haziness when you finish them. Cutting for Stone has been such a book for me. It is a beautiful novel because it succeeds in creating endearing personalities. Apart from this, there is very little I can add to the very many reviews in GR, or to what the author has presented in the “Stanford Book Salon”. He acted as the Faculty Host when they chose this book in their monthly reading. As I do not belong to the medical community, I fo Some books have a hypnotic effect and they leave you in a state of haziness when you finish them. Cutting for Stone has been such a book for me. It is a beautiful novel because it succeeds in creating endearing personalities. Apart from this, there is very little I can add to the very many reviews in GR, or to what the author has presented in the “Stanford Book Salon”. He acted as the Faculty Host when they chose this book in their monthly reading. As I do not belong to the medical community, I found, as many other readers, that the abundant medical content required more concentration on my part. But I did not mind. It helped to create a setting of doctors (most of the characters are, and a crucial part of the action takes place in SurgeryRoom3), and to get a glimpse of a medical mind, especially that of a surgeon’s. For example, visiting the patient just after succesful surgery can become addictive, because of its exhilarating effect. Or how nerve-wracking it must be to hold in one’s hands, literally, the heart of a beloved person. I think it would drive me mad. It has also been very enriching to learn about Ethiopia and to speculate on how history would have been different if the ancient Ethiopia (Aksumite kingdom) had succeeded in being an alternative Empire to Rome’s. I have started already some vague plans to visit the place (and not just its restaurants to taste the inviting injera).

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I liked CUTTING FOR STONE, but ultimately, it disappointed. I'd heard such glowing reviews, perhaps I was setting my self up to be underwhelmed. Still, I found Marion, the narrator, very distant and was not able to engage with his character at all. The books contains some interesting detail about the advent of several medical procedures, and I did find the end of the book much more emotionally satisfying than the beginning and middle, but in the end, it wasn't enough. Verghese is a wonderful des I liked CUTTING FOR STONE, but ultimately, it disappointed. I'd heard such glowing reviews, perhaps I was setting my self up to be underwhelmed. Still, I found Marion, the narrator, very distant and was not able to engage with his character at all. The books contains some interesting detail about the advent of several medical procedures, and I did find the end of the book much more emotionally satisfying than the beginning and middle, but in the end, it wasn't enough. Verghese is a wonderful descriptive writer--Ethiopia, India, and the Bronx come alive--and I would encourage others to give this a shot, but to me, it was distant, a little slow, and for the most part, unsatisfying.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sammy Loves Books

    WOW!! What an Amazing, Epic, Journey!! 5 "Heart Rending, Family Saga" Stars!! “Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.” Sister Mary Joseph Praise This book left me speechless in the end. This was such a beautiful story, focusing on family, love, and tragic loss. We are introduced to Sister Mary Joseph Praise. A young nun that embarks on a journey, starting in India, and WOW!! What an Amazing, Epic, Journey!! 5 "Heart Rending, Family Saga" Stars!! “Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.” Sister Mary Joseph Praise This book left me speechless in the end. This was such a beautiful story, focusing on family, love, and tragic loss. We are introduced to Sister Mary Joseph Praise. A young nun that embarks on a journey, starting in India, and ending at Missing Hospital in Ethiopia. Sister Mary Joseph Praise is loved and respected by all, so it is beyond shocking to discover that she is with child!! Missing Hospital “What we are fighting isn't godlessness--this is the most godly country on earth. We aren't even fighting disease. Its poverty. Money for food, medicines... that helps. When we cannot cure or save a life, our patients can at least feel cared for. It should be a basic human right.” Missing Hospital becomes the main location for the wonderful tale. It is home to all a hodge podge of doctors and nuns, that have come to share their skills with the less fortunate citizens of Addis Abba. Ethiopia eventually has civil unrest and a coupe to overthrow the current regime arises. The government/ monarch trusts no one, so life isn't always safe, even for the physicians at Missing Hospital. Dr. Thomas Stone Dr. Stone is a surgeon from England. He meets Sister Mary Joseph Praise on a ship while traveling from India to Ethiopia. These two share a history, and events unfold during their journey that set the stage for a heart wrenching love story. Stone is a difficult man, but a brilliant surgeon. He is socially awkward and in love with a woman that has pledged her life to God. “I'm so sorry," Stone said. I don't know whether he was speaking to me, or Ghosh, or the universe. It wasn't enough, but it was about time.” “A rich man's faults are covered with money, but a surgeon's faults are covered with earth.” The Love Child of Dr. Thomas Stone and Sister Mary Joseph Praise is a shock to all at Missing Hospital. Yet these two are so loved, that their offspring are embraced by all. Addis Abba Marion Stone “As a child I'd longed for Thomas Stone or at least the idea of him. So many mornings I waited for him at the gates of Missing. I saw that vigil now as necessary, a prerequisite for my insides to harden and cure just like the willow of a cricket bat must cure to be ready for a lifetime of knocks. That was the lesson at Missing's gates: the world does not owe you and neither does your father.” Marion is the narrator and you can't help but love him. He is wise beyond his years, yet naive to things that are right in front of him. We follow his life from a toddler in Addis Abba, to a grown man working as a surgeon in the United States. His life is full of love and tragedy. He falls in love with Ginnett. A beautiful girl with an untamed spirit. Shiva Stone “Pray tell us, what's your favorite number?"... "Shiva jumped up to the board, uninvited, and wrote 10,213,223"... "And pray, why would this number interest us?" "It is the only number that describes itself when you read it, 'One zero, two ones, three twos, two threes'.” Shiva Stone is brilliant!! He's all numbers and logic. He is never embarrassed or feels awkward, because his is comfortable in his skin. He doesn't show emotion, or express himself like others do. He is a breath of fresh air. Ginnett “I was angry with myself because I still loved her, or at least I loved that dream of our togetherness. My feelings were unreasonable, irrational, and I couldn't change them. That hurt.” Ginnett was my least favorite character in this book. She was an easy scapegoat even though her mother was the true cause to her downfall. I HATED her mother. Hema and Ghosh “There is a point when grief exceeds the human capacity to emote, and as a result one is strangely composed-she had reached that point.” “My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they'll leave in people's hearts. They realize the no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate, can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.” Hema and Gosh are both doctors at Missing Hospital. Hema is a Gynecologist and Gosh focused on internal medicine. I absolutely loved these two. They were the heroes of this tale. Always doing what was right to save the ones they loved. Gosh was so wise and loving, patient, and kind. Hema had a tough exterior, but her heart was made of gold. Fistula hospital Ethiopian Food This book is an Epic story about a family and all it's ups and downs. We travel from India, to Ethiopia, and to the United States. The author is so descriptive that I feel as if I have actually been to the places he describes. We also experience love, that is all consuming, and gut wrenching tragedy. This all felt so real, yet it is just an Amazing, beautiful work of fiction. This is without a doubt the Best Book I have read in a long time!! This book is a bit long, but it's worth it!! I highly recommend this 5 star read. Bravo!!! Bravo!!!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I wish I still had this book in my future. I wish it were tucked away in a stack of books on my nightstand, waiting patiently for its turn to be read. I wish I were going home tonight to curl up in a chair with nothing to do but pick up this book and slowly -- savoringly, if that's a word* -- take it in, one page at a time. There's a lot to say about this book, but I'll simplify what could otherwise become a lengthy review (Me? Verbose? Nevah!) and say this: Cutting for Stone is a beautifully wr I wish I still had this book in my future. I wish it were tucked away in a stack of books on my nightstand, waiting patiently for its turn to be read. I wish I were going home tonight to curl up in a chair with nothing to do but pick up this book and slowly -- savoringly, if that's a word* -- take it in, one page at a time. There's a lot to say about this book, but I'll simplify what could otherwise become a lengthy review (Me? Verbose? Nevah!) and say this: Cutting for Stone is a beautifully written story about fate, love and forgiveness. But see, even that doesn't quite do it justice, because it makes it sound like the next Oprah's Book Club selection. Sorry, Ops, but this book is so much more than that. It was the first story I've read in a long time that genuinely swept me away. It left me in tears at times, but always through the essence of the story -- never through manipulative sap. Its words were painterly -- careful but expressive. This is one for the esteemed shelf of my living room bookcase. *Autocorrect tells me it is not.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Richards

    4.5. A really wonderful story, and very moving, that will stay with me for a long time.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I've been trying to find a few minutes to say a few words about Cutting for Stone. I didn't want to rush my take on this as I wanted to do the book justice. This is always scary territory for me, telling why I liked or disliked a book, more so when I really liked the book. Abraham Verghese is an extremely gifted story teller, weaving his story of co-joined twins born to an Indian nun in Ethiopia with intricacy. The birth alone builds in 109 breathtaking pages and could stand alone for me. It is I've been trying to find a few minutes to say a few words about Cutting for Stone. I didn't want to rush my take on this as I wanted to do the book justice. This is always scary territory for me, telling why I liked or disliked a book, more so when I really liked the book. Abraham Verghese is an extremely gifted story teller, weaving his story of co-joined twins born to an Indian nun in Ethiopia with intricacy. The birth alone builds in 109 breathtaking pages and could stand alone for me. It is a story of brothers though starting life in the womb as one, are separated physically at their birth by the surgeon who might be their father, and emotionally thereafter. Twins are a special breed and Marion/Shiva are no exception. There is love, betrayal, sex, hatred and revenge in this saga that takes us from Africa to Our lady of Perpetual Succour, a poor neighborhood New York hospital. Both twins practice medicine but their training and fields of expertise couldn't be further apart. Each deals with the question of their parentage in their own way and each carry scars that are difficult to heal. Readers who like a strong medical story should love Cutting for Stone as the descriptions of surgery and procedure are interesting and believable. There is also enough background of the political happenings in Ethiopia to hold the interest of history lovers. But the strongest appeal for me is the development of the characters, not only Marion/Shiva but of all the players that make this story jump off the pages. Just one of these is Genet, the girl/woman who is like a sister and so much of each boy/man's life. Verghese is also strong in description and the book itself comes in at 534 pages. I was never bored. Each year a group of librarians and library staff vote for their favorite books. Thankfully they include a "best older book" read in 2010 as a category. Cutting for Stone was published in 2009. I'm glad I'll be able to give it my vote.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    WOW! Loved it. Review to come. This is one of the few books my husband ever recommended to me, and why I waited so long to read it I do not know. I will start by saying I listened to the audio and the narration was wonderful. I think that if reading it there may have been parts that may have "bogged" me down a bit, but with the audio it was not the case. This is the story of Marion Stone and follows his life from before his birth through adulthood. I travelled to Missing and became a bystander t WOW! Loved it. Review to come. This is one of the few books my husband ever recommended to me, and why I waited so long to read it I do not know. I will start by saying I listened to the audio and the narration was wonderful. I think that if reading it there may have been parts that may have "bogged" me down a bit, but with the audio it was not the case. This is the story of Marion Stone and follows his life from before his birth through adulthood. I travelled to Missing and became a bystander to this place and these characters. From the story of how the twins came to be, the horrible circumstances of their birth, their unusual childhoods. I journeyed with Marion as he left this haven, his home, under a shadow during his countries political unrest. I discovered the Bronx hospital where he learned to be a Dr. under harsh conditions. All the while he felt he was missing something. His home, his brother, his true calling or most important the knowing of his real father. The characters were well done, fully developed and unique. The secondary characters were ones I loved. My favorite by far was Ghosh, his adoptive father who never expected to have sons, but he rose to the occasion and was brilliant! Full of life, humor, empathy, loyalty and passion. Perhaps one of the best literary characters for me since Atticus Finch. He believed in love, laughter and legacy. “I spent as much time as I could with Ghosh. I wanted every bit of wisdom he could impart to me. All sons should write down every word of what their fathers have to say to them. I tried. Why did it take an illness for me to recognize the value of time with him? It seems we humans never learn. And so we relearn the lesson every generation and then want to write epistles. We proselytize to our friends and shake them by the shoulders and tell them, "Seize the day! What matters is THIS moment!" Most of us can't go back and make restitution. We can't do a thing about our should haves and our could haves. But a few lucky men like Ghosh never have such worries; there was no restitution he needed to make, no moment he failed to seize. Now and then Ghosh would grin and wink at me across the room. He was teaching me how to die, just as he'd taught me how to live.” ― Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone This is a story of searching, of family, of betrayal and of healing. So many wonderful thoughts came from these characters. There were horrific medical scenes, but they were truly a part of this story. There was sadness thru much of it, and I was surprised at the humor I found. (my favorite may have been the scene when Ghosh does the vasectomy and tells the man "you may have relations without a condom, smoke a cigarette, have a brandy and stay for breakfast.") So many memorable quotes and life lessons to recall. “We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We'll leave much unfinished for the next generation.” “Life is like that. You live it forward but understand it backward.” ― Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone― Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone In the end, Marion finds his answers. Most of us are not so lucky. I believe I will think of this story for a long time to come.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    4 1/2 stars About a year ago a very good friend read this book – or tried to – she gave up very early on stating that it she didn’t have the stomach for the medical procedures in the book. It left an imprint on me to avoid the book but for some reason I kept on circling back to it. The point of the above story is to say that yes the book is full of medical terms, procedures and discussions but if you have watched any Grey’s Anatomy none of this will bother you one bit. In fact, it’s the medicine t 4 1/2 stars About a year ago a very good friend read this book – or tried to – she gave up very early on stating that it she didn’t have the stomach for the medical procedures in the book. It left an imprint on me to avoid the book but for some reason I kept on circling back to it. The point of the above story is to say that yes the book is full of medical terms, procedures and discussions but if you have watched any Grey’s Anatomy none of this will bother you one bit. In fact, it’s the medicine that kept me reading when at one point I wanted to put this book down. The story starts in Ethiopia in the late 1950’s (?) 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 doctors at this hospital worked not just with an extreme lack of medical supplies and equipment they also had to work against their patients’ beliefs and customs. There were fascinating and compelling descriptive passages of Ethiopia's geography and culture, medical breakthroughs and procedures, disturbing political events and of the Ethiopian and American medical systems. Interspersed throughout are historical titbits of Ethiopia and its often odd rulers: ”In 1909, Emperor Menelik had imported an electric chair, having heard the invention would efficiently get rid of his enemies. When he discovered it needed electricity, he simply used it as a throne.” As with a previous book I read not too long ago – We Need New Names– the book also touched on Western aid to needy African countries and while this was done with the purest of intentions it really never solved the problems it intends to. As Marion and Shiva grow up they get their first experiences of cruelty (as all children do at some point) but this is where I felt there was a bit of a gap that needed filling. The relationship between Marion, Shiva and Genet was a complicated one and I would have appreciated a bit more in-depth knowledge of specifically Shiva to understand it better. At times this book was hard going but I was rewarded with some absolutely brilliant writing, especially when describing surgery or medicine – the author’s love of this profession is indisputable. But through most of the book I didn’t feel any emotional connection with the characters. That is until the last 10% - I would be lying if I said that the conclusion did not affect me. So although this was by no means an easy read it was well worth the effort. These characters will stay with me for a long time, Hema and Ghosh in particular.

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