Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Published by Knopf
Twins Marion and Shiva Stone are born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the result of an affair between an Indian nun and a British surgeon. After their mother dies giving birth to them, their father flees the country, leaving them to be raised by two doctors at the hospital where they are born, Hema and Ghosh – a pair that are friends but later marry upon discovering their love for one another. Marion and Shiva grow up surrounded by doctors, surgeons and medical procedures of all kinds, so it’s inevitable that both end up in the medical field eventually – but their paths are completely different, and while there is a bond between them that is unyielding, the ways in which they disappoint and hurt one another over the years are many and incredibly painful to them both, but most of all to the more emotional, introspective and ambitious Marion.
This book is pretty huge, and to do its plot justice in a one-paragraph summary is kind of silly, because there is just so much that happens within these pages. To say that Cutting for Stone is a family saga would be true but also not true, because it is about so much more than these two brothers and the family that raised them. It is about their heritage, about the two people who created them, about performing medicine in a hospital with access to very few resources, about poverty, about the history of Ethiopia, it is about the bonds between the families we are born into and the bonds between the family we choose, about decisions that have reverberating consequences and about decisions that seem inherently wrong but end up having unexpectedly great results. I’m telling you, there is just so much happening in this novel that I can’t even begin to explain all of its many elements.
Cutting for Stone is absolutely a gorgeous novel that sweeps the reader in and doesn’t let go until the very last page. The writing is incredible, lush and descriptive, transporting the reader to Ethiopia and the hospital where the twins spent most of their lives. The characters are built slowly, intricately, in such a detailed manner that the reader truly gets to know each and every person within these pages, even the ones who are largely absent throughout the novel. The relationships between the characters are complicated, interesting, surprising, and so very, very true to life. The ways in which they disappoint one another, love each other, are there for each other, make sacrifices for each other, do terrible things to one another – all elements of being human and being in relationships with other humans are woven throughout this novel.
There are so many aspects to this book that I absolutely loved, so I just have to say – do not let its size intimidate you. If you are into family sagas, multicultural fiction, books about medicine, beautiful writing, or any combination of those, please look no further than Cutting for Stone. This novel was absolutely fantastic.