Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


"Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese would definitely not be a book I would choose to read given my own choices. Which is not to say I didn't have a choice, at least in the literal sense of the phrase.

I have a choice whether or not to belong to my book club and the member whose turn it was to choose the book chose, tada, this book.

First, this is not a small book. Tis not a read to be done on the beach as children play in the sand and surfs roar. I'd hardly call it a tome but it's a substantial piece of literature both in terms of heft and the quality of the writing. The vocabulary is not small is what I'm saying here.

Abraham Verghese is quite the wordsmith.

Further, if someone were to tell me I'd be reading a largish book about Ethiopia I'd for sure squint eyes and pout the mouth. You could take everything I know about Ethiopia and shove it up the behind of a flea. Where it would, still, rattle around like a beebee in a box car.

Verghese sure knew Ethiopia, however, from its politics to its flower and fauna. The book's tale takes place somewhere in the sixties and seventies. I recall a Haile Selassie of that era and he seemed to be nothing but a trouble maker in the region.

The book is the story of a set of identical twins born in Ethiopia of a nun and an esteemed surgeon of the region. The boys' mother died in childbirth and they were raised by another doctor in the missionary hospital of their birth. Their father disappeared on the day of their birth.

There are many characters interwoven into this tale. Genet was a child also born in the missionary hospital and was the love of Marion Stone, brother of Shiva Stone and one of the identical twins.

Dr. Ghosh was the boys' stepfather, a man of great tendersness who, along with their stepmother Ema, raised them with great love and tradition.

It's a saga of sorts. The reader tracks the lives of Marion and Shiva Stone, Shiva being the somewhat autistic twin with Marion being the surgeon of the two. Genet's story goes off in a direction that surprises to eventually meet Marion again in America.

This was a riveting and fantastic book, filled with medical facts and procedures that intrigue. I must now end the detail of the story lest I give it away. I was spellbound by the excellent writing, the intriguing and foreign tale, the saga of the characters as they grew in love, sometimes hatred.

The relationship of the twins was the center of the story. Shiva and Marion do almost come to blows over the beloved Genet.

The ending is shocking, almost torture. The reader wants to reach inside the author's head and beg to please not let it end this way.

It's a good read, written with a knowledge of the geography, an insight into the characters, the stories of a confused and poor nation struggling to survive a killing regime with a takeover by the army that only made things worse.

Read it. And do not ever think a story placed in Ethiopia would ever be boring.

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