Summary and book reviews of Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting For Stone

by Abraham Verghese

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2009, 560 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2010, 560 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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About this Book

Book Summary

One of BookBrowse's Top 3 Favorite Books of 2009

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.

One of BookBrowse's Top 3 Favorite Books of 2009

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.

The Coming

After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, 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 breaths at an elevation of eight thousand feet in the thin air of Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. The miracle of our birth took place in Missing Hospital’s Operating Theater 3, the very room where our mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, spent most of her working hours, and in which she had been most fulfilled.

When our mother, a nun of the Diocesan Carmelite Order of Madras, unexpectedly went into labor that September morning, the big rain in Ethiopia had ended, its rattle on the corrugated tin roofs of Missing ceasing abruptly like a chatterbox cut off in midsentence. Over night, in that hushed silence, the meskel flowers bloomed, turning the hillsides of Addis Ababa into gold. In the meadows around Missing the sedge won its ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggested further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's discussion of Abraham Verghese's acclaimed first novel, Cutting for Stone.


About This Book

An epic novel that spans continents and generations, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, compassion and redemption, exile An epic novel that spans continents and generations, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, compassion and redemption, exile and home that unfolds across five decades in India, Ethiopia, and America.

Narrated by Marion Stone, the story begins even before Marion and his twin brother, Shiva, are born in Addis ...
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    BookBrowse Awards
    2009

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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.   (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

Full Review (538 words).

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Media Reviews

The Houston Chronicle - William Cobb

The novel is a bit of a potboiler, full of minor characters who have significant roles in plot twists, and that fuels in part its excessive length and numerous digressions.

San Francisco Chronicle - Meghan Ward

An epic tale about love, abandonment, betrayal and redemption, Verghese’s first novel is a masterpiece of traditional storytelling. Not a word is wasted in this larger-than-life saga that spans three countries and six decades

The Washington Post Book World - W. Ralph Eubanks

Masterful ... Verghese’s gripping narrative moves over decades and generations from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York, describing the cultural and spiritual pull of these places. . . . Even with its many stories and layers, Cutting for Stone remains clear and concise.

Kirkus Reviews

The ambition is laudable, but too often accounts of operations—a bowel obstruction here, a vasectomy there—overwhelm the narrative. Characterization suffers.

Library Journal - Jim Coan

This novel succeeds on many levels and is recommended for all collections.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

Author Blurb Tracy Kidder
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.

Author Blurb Mark Salzman
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!

Author Blurb Pauline W. Chen, author of Final Exam
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 re-defined great medical literature–great literature period–for the rest of us.

Author Blurb Atul Gawande
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.

Reader Reviews

Becky H

interesting on many levels
Although long (perhaps a bit too long), this tale of brothers holds your attention. When an Italian nun, woefully unprepared for a mission in Africa, turns up at a medical mission in Ethiopia, she is welcomed because of her skill with patients and ...   Read More

Dave

Cutting for Stone
Our all-guys bookclub read this in a joint meeting with our spouse's all-girls bookclub -- everyone found this book to be an absolutely fascinating read about an area of the world few of us knew much about and a story line, rich characters, and ...   Read More

Sue Zugaj

LISTEN TO THIS BOOK
The audio book is one of the best I've listened to. Some narrators 'read' to you.....this narrator brings the country and the characters to life - you are entertained and educated and won't be disappointed.

CMLewis

My thoughts & questions
I am almost finished - have really been saving the last few pages because I am in the process of reviewing contents. This has been an interesting book - many layers for all characters- right now I am trying to go back and find a direct reference to ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Hippocratic Oath
The title, Cutting for Stone, refers to a line in the Hippocratic Oath, and to the last name of the three main characters, all of them surgeons. As Abraham Verghese quotes it, the line from the Oath reads "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." While this line refers specifically to surgery for bladder stones (which were quite prevalent in the 4th century BC), it's also a directive against surgery of all kinds. Ancient Greek physicians did not practice surgery, instead referring their patients to trained surgeons. Surgery was then considered a secondary skill, and surgeons ...

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