As a bookseller, I live for novels like Cutting for Stone - big, fat,
beautiful novels as beguiling and enchanting as babies, as wise and as generous
as old sages. They are the bread-and-butter novels I can't wait to sell, the
books people talk about all year long, the books they buy for their sisters and
fathers, the book they press into the hands of friends with insistent, almost
violent exhortations. Read this. You will love it. You HAVE to read this
book. I talk about these books in the plural, as if there are scores of
them, but while their iconic status is great, their numbers are few. They don't
come along every season, or even every year, but I wait for them, hoping every
third book I read will be the one, that one single book that makes my heart leap
every time I know someone else is going to get to read it, too. And so, let me
be the first, but certainly not the last to tell you: Read this book. You
will love it.
Abraham Verghese's gorgeous prose forms an intoxicating synergy with his sweeping, twining plot, and I was hooked from the very first page. I raced through the remaining 500, and then couldn't bear to turn the last few. The story begins like a sudden storm and channels into a swift current that's difficult to emerge from: I stayed up through the wee hours, and polished off this hefty book in just two long nights.
Cutting for Stone is about all the giant things: family, love, war, home, land, life, death, exile, brotherhood, betrayal, and faith. There are lovable mothers and fathers, telepathic twins, mysterious priests, brave nuns, despicable generals, weak giants, miracles, rock and roll, sex, food, dusty dirt roads and city streets, and countless operating rooms. Verghese's reach is vast, but the intimacy of his characters keeps the novel close, writing about the big things through tiny, intimate, emotional moments that drive to the heart of all that we find most impossible to describe.
When I originally reviewed this book last year, a few weeks before it published, I was bold enough to claim that it would go on to be named one of the best novels of 2009, not just by myself, but possibly by every book review's top-ten list, shortlisted for all of the major book awards, and decorated with Oprah's book club sticker. I may have failed at the prediction game, but I'll surely stick to the recommending game: Literally dozens of readers have returned to my bookstore (some just two days later!) to thank me for recommending Cutting for Stone, and to buy copies for their friends. And it was voted by our very own BookBrowse readers one of the top 3 books of 2009. I'll take those votes over Oprah's any day!
20 BookBrowse members reviewed Cutting For Stone rating it an extremely high 4.7 out of 5.0 overall - one of our highest rated of the 100+ books read to date!
This review was originally published in February 2009, and has been updated for the January 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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