Apr 25, 2012

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

This has been a widely lauded novel, and I can see why. Written by a surgeon, it was a bit too graphic and scientific for me at times, but the writing is quite moving and lovely. The novel follows the lives - in snapshots - of Marion and Shiva, identical twins born in Ethiopia to an Indian nun and a British surgeon. We begin with their tumultuous and bloody birth (a bit too bloody; I tried eating while reading it and completely lost my appetite). Thomas Stone, their father, had no idea their mother was even pregnant, and fails to save her life during the birth. Beyond distraught, Stone runs away from the Missing Hospital, leaving the twins to be raised by Hema, the hospital's gynecologist, and Ghosh, an internist who takes up surgical duties after Stone's departure. Soon, the twins are joined by a baby girl who's mother is a servant at Missing, and the three begin on the journey of life perpetually intertwined with one another. Shiva's actions affect Genet's, which affect Marion's, which affect Genet's, and so on and so forth. The story is heartbreaking and uplifting and everything in between, but slightly underwhelming. What makes this book worth reading is Verghese's writing. Yes, I could have done without the medical violence, but Verghese's description of Ethiopia is so beautiful and loving. Generally, I'm more interested in plot and what the characters have to say; in this novel, the narrative is the most important part. It's written from the first person perspective of Marion, and Verghese gives him a profound yet not overly navel-gazing voice. I can understand how this book has drawn in so many people.

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