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Cutting for Stone [Paperback]

Abraham Verghese
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 26 2010
International Bestseller

A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel — an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Review

“A marvel of a first novel. Verghese’s generosity of spirit is beautifully embodied in this gripping family saga that brings mid-century Ethiopia to vivid life. The practice of medicine is like a spiritual calling in this book, and the unforgettable people at its center bring passion and nobility — not to mention humor and humility — to the ancient art, while living an unforgettable story of love and betrayal and forgiveness. It’s wonderful.”
— Ann Packer

“The medical background is fascinating as the author delves into fairly technical areas of human anatomy and surgical procedure. This novel succeeds on many levels and is recommended for all collections.”
— Jim Coan, Library Journal

“Lauded for his sensitive memoir My Own Country, Verghese [now] turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations…. Verghese’s weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power of the best 19th-century novels.”
Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)

“Abraham Verghese has always written with grace, precision and feeling [but] he’s topped himself with Cutting for Stone…. A vastly entertaining and enlightening book.”
— Tracy Kidder

“Absolutely fantastic! Holy cow, this book should be a huge success. It has everything: nuns, conjoined twins, civil war, and medicine — I was thinking that if Vikram Seth and Oliver Sacks were to collaborate on a four-hour episode of Grey’s Anatomy set in Africa, they could only hope to come up with something this moving and entertaining…. A marvelous novel!”
— Mark Salzman

“A marvelous novel. To read the first page of Cutting for Stone is to fall hopelessly under the spell of a masterful storyteller; and to try to close the book thereafter is to tear oneself away from the most vivid of dreams. Cutting for Stone is a gorgeous epic tale, suffused with unforgettable grace, humanity and compassion. Verghese breathes such life into his characters that there is a poignant familiarity to them, one that lingers and haunts long after the dream is over. Verghese has once again set the bar and redefined great medical literature — great literature period — for the rest of us.”
— Pauline W. Chen, author of Final Exam

“Abraham Verghese has long been one of my favorite authors. Yet, much as I admire his abundant gifts as both writer and physician, nothing could have prepared me for the great achievement of his first novel. Here is an extraordinary imagination, artfully shaped and forcefully developed, wholly given in service to a human story that is deeply moving, utterly gripping, and, indeed, unforgettable. Cutting for Stone is a work of literature as noble and dramatic as that ancient practice — medicine — that lies at the heart of this magnificent novel.”
— John Burnham Schwartz, author of The Commoner and Reservation Road

Cutting for Stone is a tremendous accomplishment. The writing is vivid and thrilling, and the story completely absorbing, with its pregnant Indian nun, demon-ridden British surgeon, Siamese twins orphaned and severed at birth, and narrative strands stretching across four continents. A tale this wild is perilous, but there is not a false step anywhere. Accomplished non-fiction writers do not necessarily make accomplished novelists, but with Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese has become both. This is a novel sure to receive a great amount of critical attention — and attention from readers, too. I feel lucky to have gotten to read it.”
— Atul Gawande

“One of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.”
— Robert Bly

“Prepare to be transported entirely by one of the finest writers of our time. Cutting for Stone by the astonishingly gifted, deeply compassionate writer Abraham Verghese will wrap around you from the very first page and will not let you go.”
— Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Habibi

“Empathy for our frail human condition resonates throughout Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. By tracing the development of a narrator unlike any other in our literature — from his nearly mythic beginnings in Ethiopia to his immigrant life in contemporary America — Verghese demonstrates that the supreme skill of a physician lies not in his hands but in his heart. No contemporary novelist has written so well about the human body. Cutting for Stone is an amazing and moving achievement which reminds us of the miracle of being alive.”
— Tom Grimes, author of A Stone of the Heart

Cutting for Stone is nothing short of masterful — a riveting tale of love, medicine, and the complex dynamic of twin brothers. It is beautifully conceived and written. The settings are wonderfully pictorial. There is no doubt in my mind that Cutting for Stone will endure in the permanent literature of our time.”
— Richard Selzer, surgeon and author of Letters to a Young Doctor

Cutting the Stone is astonishing — the best book I have read in years. Verghese has a profound love and empathy for his characters and an extraordinary ability to bring his readers to worlds they could never imagine. Here at last is an epic — a great yarn of a novel — as ambitious in its reach as if from another century. Fathers, mothers, sons, children, love: what emotion is not examined? So many of us have been operating as if a sweeping narrative were as quaint as the buggy whip, and yet here comes Verghese to turn that assumption inside out. I wept through parts of this novel, as much for how we live lives of blindness, to ourselves and to others, until we are set on a course that cannot be altered, but just lived and then reconsidered. Bravo to Abraham Verghese!”
— Marie Brenner, author of Apples & Oranges

“A grand, exquisitely drawn story of twin brothers that ranges from birth to death, and from Ethiopia to America. In Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese shows us with brilliance and passion where healing comes from, and how we move through suffering to embrace life. In the hands of this compassionate doctor/writer, the details are indelible: A wonderful book.”
— Samuel Shem, author of The House of God and The Spirit of the Place

“Every once in a long while, you come upon a book that is truly extraordinary. Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone is one such book…. Brilliant … truly brilliant. ”
— Heather Reisman


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Abraham Verghese is also the author of The Tennis Partner, a New York Times Notable Book, and My Own Country, a National Book Critics Circle finalist. Currently a professor of internal medicine at Stanford University, he has also served on faculties in Iowa, Texas, and Tennessee. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, his fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and Granta. He lives in Palo Alto, California.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning! Feb. 23 2009
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This epic family saga spans through the 1950s to present time and travels from Ethiopia to America and back again. A brilliant tale that starts off with an Indian nun working as a nurse in Ethiopia surprisingly going into labour with complications. Her twin sons are delivered alive but she dies on the table and the white doctor who is assumed to be the father refuses to look at the boys and leaves the Mission Hospital never to return again. This, then, is the story of the twins, Marion and Shiva, told through the eyes of Marion, the first born. The story of how they were as one person together until the day that betrayal over a woman tore them apart. An intense story that centres around medicine as the doctors and nurses try to help the poor of Ethiopia but also spans the history of this country from an autonomous monarchy through two coups, and a Marxist regime.

An absolutely brilliant book that I could not put down. Once I started I kept on reading like there was no tomorrow. The characters that populate this book are immensely genuine and eclectic from the twins, to their adoptive doctor parents, to the servants, the Matron and finally the collection of Indian doctors working together in America. A loving family and community from a mixture of cultures (white, Indian and Ethiopian) that combine Catholicism with Hinduism, live together through shocking event after shocking event.

A real page turner. An epic story that is a joy to read. An unfamiliar setting and a focus on medicine both captivated me and a truly heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal that continues to surprise you at every turn. Truly wonderful, this is a book that will stay with me. Highly recommended!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Oct. 22 2009
By Lee
Format:Hardcover
When I started this book I had no idea that it would end up being my favourite book of the year. It was so unexpectedly moving and brilliant that I am still shocked it is over. Abraham Verghese writes the kind of story that makes you a part of his world. A hospital compound in Ethiopia inhabited by an eclectic but warm cast of characters who form a tight knit family and who experience all sorts of upheaval from failed political coup attempts to extreme medical emergencies. I found the amount of medical detail quite fascinating but I imagine not everyone would. It does create very vivid pictures and sometimes uncomfortable reactions while reading but for me, it made sense, as every main character in the book is a physician. The story took me to the very edge of life and death, love and suffering and then left me in a place of peace. A really wonderful reading experience.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great novel March 4 2010
Format:Paperback
This is one really good book filled with characters you want to know and a story you want to follow. You get to learn all kinds of things about medicine too (sometimes things that are hard to take). I listened to this book on CD borrowed from the library and did not want to miss one word. Sometimes I stopped the car and sat there listening. I am buying this book. Highly recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful read! Feb. 5 2010
Format:Hardcover
Something about this book did not really appeal to me when it was proposed as our book club read for January, but since everyone else wanted to read it, I had to, too, and I'm very glad I did. I became absolutely engrossed within a few pages. The author weaves a rather amazing tale, overflowing with backstory, and his story-telling skills are stellar. The book is almost totally a narrative, with not so much as a boring paragraph. The subjects covered throughout the pages are many, but all information is imparted within the context of the story, with the unexpected benefit that I feel I know more than I did before I read the book, but the learning was enjoyable. His characters are ripe with life, and humanity, and not an improbable one in the entire book. I think perhaps the bit that made me hesitate at first was that I found a nun pregnant with twins a little bizarre and maybe distasteful. The storyline that eventually emerges regarding that circumstance is believable and sad, and touching. This man is a truly gifted storyteller. I read quite a bit, and it has been some time since I've so wholeheartedly enjoyed a story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start, but keeps you reading May 4 2012
Format:Paperback
Love this book! It's a family history, love story and tragedy all wrapped up in one fictional novel. Brilliant writing that gets better as the book progresses.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Clear your calendar before you read this book, and prepare to be transported. You will enter the world of Shiva/Marion -- the once-conjoined twins who grow up inseparable, but find their complementary skills only by separating. Verghese is a surgeon as well as a writer; his skill in both these professions take the reader into makeshift operating rooms in Ethiopia and high-tech operating theatres in the US; you learn as much about medical procedures as you do about the human condition, and all of it is given to you in lyrical prose.
Verghese's empathy and understanding are obvious in the characters he creates; Shiva/Marion; their sister the revolutionary; their biological parents; the doctors who become their mother,father and teachers; the others who inhabit the worlds of "Missing" hospital, Boston and New York City and who will come to live in your memory and imagination long after you have finished this remarkable book.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars not an easy, soft
too disjointed. you never where you are at, even who is who, i had to struggle with it, not an easy, soft, pleasant read. i would not recommend. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Robert Markosky
4.0 out of 5 stars Although I liked the book
Although I liked the book, I found it was written too much as a medical text book. That said, the characters in the book were well described. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jan Villeneuve
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Loved this book. Interesting storyline and very well written.
Published 1 month ago by Judy Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put the book down.
After the first few pages, I was completely absorbed. I spent a couple long days reading the book (and interrupting my life).
Published 2 months ago by Curious George
5.0 out of 5 stars Cutting for Stone
Another brilliant story that grabbed me from the start about the medical profession during a time of war in Ethiopia.
Published 2 months ago by K. Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars Jeanne
I'm 3/4 of the way thru' the book and it is an awesome read! Really looking forward to reading the remaining of the book!
Published 3 months ago by Jeanne Strobel
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!!
This is without a doubt one of the best reads in awhile. How Verghese weaves this rather interesting drama results in a true masterpiece. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Philippe A Noel
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Complex characters as well as outstanding detail to medical issues. Recommended especially for medical students and physicians, as well as the general public.
Published 5 months ago by davemacq
3.0 out of 5 stars Average read.
I found this book to be overly long with meaningless side stories. Could have left out at least one hundred pages. Then would have been an ok read.
Published 6 months ago by Brenda A. Barr
4.0 out of 5 stars Cutting forStone
This was a fascinating book depicting life in a mid eastern country through a medical persons eyes. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Janice Darlington
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