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!
on October 22, 2009
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.
on March 4, 2010
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.
on February 5, 2010
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.
on June 15, 2010
More than a family saga, this is a novel of mythic proportions. It begins with a wallop and never stops. While fictional, the historical and cultural backdrop of the Haile Selassie era of Ethiopia provides solid ground for this deeply satisfying tale of the lives of the nuns, doctors and helpers who run a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. While the narrator and main protagonist of the story is an identical twin born to one of the nuns, the other characters are all indelibly burned into my memory. Verghese breathes life into each individual in a brilliant layered manner that is very gratifying. Highly educational, he makes the various diseases, treatments and surgeries incredibly vivid and real; I felt I was there, witnessing the doctors making tiny silk sutures, handing them retractors or holding the hand of a patient. He manages this without a moment of boredom. An ethnically interesting mix of Indians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, British and Americans makes the novel convincing and fascinating. While the heady climax occurs in the U.S., the core story begins and ends in Ethiopia, as it should. Simply brilliant.
on March 24, 2009
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.
on March 23, 2012
This is a fascinating fictional account that works in history of a country most of us know little about, Ethiopia. While reading the book I chanced to meet a young man who had been to the country twice and had started to read this book. He was put off by the excess of medical terminology but I found it didn't get in the way of the story. It just added another dimension and because of the author's background it rang true. Evenly divided between good and evil characters (and some who fit both categories in different parts of the story) the book held my interest from beginning to end. Read it, you'll find you won't soon forget it.
on December 12, 2011
Cutting for Stone is a family drama, similar to The Kite Runner in the way it is told and the strong emotions it generates. There is so much loss, poverty, sacrifice, love, kindness, sincerity and beauty in human nature, that one cannot help being overwhelmed. I cried.
The plot is artfully crafted, you are being kept on your toes as secrets are revealed no sooner or later than necessary.
Maybe the prayers and God sent signs that appear here and there and are attributed major meanings could seem ridiculous or farfetched to some people; they belong to the story of one family who lives on a soil constantly torn and saturated with religion, they are to be taken as such.
Hema and Gosh are the parents everyone wants, where Hema renews her license on marriage every year because it is so hard to promise forever and keep your promise. Thomas Stone is the unreachable, the genius who cannot step out of his existential cast but is eventually admirable in his actions. The twins, Shiva and Marion, who form an inseparable ShivaMarion, a potent being who survives all evil, are the central part, the core, the story being told by Marion.
There are Matron, Rosina, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, Genet, and Tsige, the Missing(another relished metaphor) hospital. There is Ethiopia that you come to feel and love with its Emperor Selassie and Addis Ababa, once a cosmopolitan city, majestically depicted.
I refuse to describe the plot, so many reviewers have done it already, and stripped the book of delightful moments. Please enjoy the turns of events and the charming surprises, learn from the losses; cheer and cry as I did, discover and be reminded of the good in people, of the balance of life that always has a way to even out, no matter how impossible that seems at the time'
In Ethiopia, Marion says, patients assume that all illnesses are fatal and that death is expected, but in America, news of having a fatal illness 'always seemed to come as a surprise, as if we took it for granted that we were immortal''
To read the entire review and many more enticing ones go to allwords.ca
If the rule of writing is to write what you know, Abraham Vergheses would certainly be following that premise. Born and raised in Addis Ababa, he began his medical training in Ethiopia and then emigrated with his family to the United States with the deposition of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. The story begins in India with Sister Mary Praise who is both a nun and a nurse. She and another nun are sent by ship to work in a Kuwaiti hospital. Disease kills her friend on the journey there and rough seas require her to nurse the only doctor on board back to health. Dr. Thomas Stone is headed for Addis Ababa and circumstance causes Sister Mary Praise to end up there as well. An illicit affair results in the birth of twins, Marion Stone, our narrator and Shiva. Thomas flees after the unfortunate death of his lover and so, the two boys become the adopted sons of Hema, the gynecologist who saves the boys from a botched delivery attempt by their father and Ghosh, an internist turned surgeon after disappearance of Thomas. Both end up “cutting for Stone.” The novel is long and convoluted following the lives of Shiva and Marion as they grow up in Ethiopia, survive two revolutions and Marion's inevitable escape to America. Like other novels with Indian roots, this is filled with excellent characterization and tragedy. Coming from the imagination of a doctor, it is also filled with long descriptions of medical practice. The integrity of the novel survives despite the contrived ending.
on May 4, 2012
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.