Book Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

August 18, 2010
 I bought this eBook.

Book Review Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese if a fictional book set mostly in Ethiopia and the latter part of the book in the United States which tells the story of identical twins born to a British surgeon and a nun. Shiva and Marion Praise Stone, sons to Dr. Thomas Stone and Sister Mary Joseph Praise were born attached in the head in a rural Ethiopian hospital. Their father, the man with the golden hands and nerves of steel, panicked but miraculously they survived – unfortunately their mother died during the birth.

Shiva and Marion grow up together, adopted by two surgeons in the hospital they were born in. Marion, who tells the story, is an emotional and intelligent person who learns from the past and thinks about the future. Shiva, blessed with a photographic memory, lives in the here and now. Each twin has their ups and downs, but when Shiva commits and unforgivable act against his brother’s beliefs and morals they pull apart.

As we all know, circumstances choose our path more than we’d like to admit, and this is true as well. While Marion becomes an accomplished surgeon in New York, Shiva works with his mother becoming a world renown expert in a condition called “fistula”.  Shiva surgically heals young girls who become pregnant, yet are not old enough to deliver. When the baby tries to come out they rip the mother’s insides apart.

During Marion’s narration of the stor we meet the wonderful cast of colorful characters, Matron – the administrative head of Missing hospital, Hema – the boys’ adoptive mother and a gynecologist, Ghosh – the boys’ adoptive father and a doctor / surgeon, Genet – the boys’ childhood friend also living in Missing Hospital as well as her mother Rosina.

Cutting for Stone” is a glorious family saga which covers multiple generations and locations. The theme of book could be missing. The Ethiopian hospital is called Missing (a phonetic pronunciation of Mission), Dr. Stone is missing in the boys’ lives, as well as their mother, there are clues which are missing for years, missing loved ones and opportunities. The book, which even though centered around the twins, spans decades and continents in their mission to find the missing parts of their lives and their identities.  Ethiopia, with its diverse, violent and instable history is an excellent setting for this story, and the slow pace of life in the country sets the tone for the book.

Verghese brings to life colorful characters, explains complex ideas and probes through delicate family matters with sensitivity and style.  A physician himself, the author peppers the book with graphic descriptions of medical procedures, mostly surgeries.  I would not call it gory though, the descriptions are more of a matter-of-fact scientific nature and are easily skipped if necessary.  I, however, found them fascinating and used the lookup feature on my eReader more than any other book.

That being said, the syntax on this eBook was abysmal, disgraceful.  There were missing apostrophes on almost every other page (hed instead of he’d, shed  instead of she’d) and words which had a space in the middle with no apparent reason (Ethio pian).  Once or twice I can certainly understand, but times too numerous to count simply show me of carelessness.  If this was a hard cover book I would have returned it.

Cutting for Stone” is big and dense, but a pleasure to read.  I loved the back stories of the characters, including the minor ones, are fascinating and colorful.  Verghese’s lyrical prose makes every word seem important and weighty.  The syntax is deliberate and precise and the choice of words is marvelous.  Every simple sentence can be read several times either by itself, or part of a whole which simply forces you to keep on reading.

My rating for Cutting for Stone –  

Zohar – Man of La Book

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10 Comments

  • booksploring August 18, 2010 at 6:25 am

    I gave this one a 5/5 too…fantastic book! Shame about the ebook experience you had 🙁

  • Bibliophile By the S August 18, 2010 at 6:47 am

    I so loved the audio version of this book; excellent!

  • BookQuoter August 18, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Cannot say enough good things about this book. It's high up on my top dozen. I can never do ebooks!

  • bermudaonion August 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    The book sounds wonderful. Too bad the e-book wasn't better presented. It almost sounds like they never updated the galley.

  • Janna August 19, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for the review. This book has been on my TBR list for a while. Sounds terrific.

  • Elizabeth January 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Cutting for Stone really deserves a 5/5. I am a bit stingy, so had given it 4.75 when I rated it in my blog 🙂

  • Marie August 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I loved this book so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it too. It was one of my favorites of 2009 and I love how successful it’s been!

  • Rose City Reader February 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing your review! I added a link to your review on mine: http://www.rosecityreader.com/2013/01/review-cutting-for-stone.html

    You liked this one more than I did, which puts you in the majority of readers. I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would.

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