Book Review: Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese


688 pages

I know I have disappeared again, but I have now returned with a review for a book that will surely be numbered as one of my favorites for the year.  I had wanted to post a review soon after finishing it, but decided to hold off because my book club was meeting last week to discuss it and I often like to include the thoughts of my fellow members when posting my reviews.  Unfortunately, only one other member had finished the book, so a lot of good it did, waiting.

For those members who had not read it, I discovered quickly that providing a synopsis of Cutting for Stone is no easy feat.  Understand this—the book is of epic proportions.  At 600+ pages, I cannot fit any of it in a nutshell, but try it I will.  Mariam and Shiva are twin boys born in Ethiopia in the 1950s.  They are born to a mother who is a nun and promptly dies upon their birth, and a father who is a well revered surgeon in their small village, who quickly flees.  The toy boys are then raised by Hema, the village’s gynecologist, and Ghosh, the physician who becomes the surgeon after the disappearance of their real father, Thomas Stone.

So many issues come into play throughout the novel, and the ties that bind a family are questioned.  Shiva and Mariam, although close as two people can be, due to the fact that not only are they twins, but they also were born attached at the head, have a falling out in their teenage years, and the chasm between them quickly grows.  Shiva is somewhat of a genius, and in that sense he has cut himself off from the rest of the world and is unable to form meaningful relationships.  Mariam seems the more pragmatic of the two, at times, but also relies too much on his emotions.

My synopsis does little justice for Cutting for Stone, and barely gives the unknown reader a glimpse into the soul of this novel, but it’s close enough.  I would hate to ruin the experience for those of you who have yet to read it.  That being said, as you likely deduced, most of my fellow book club members did not make much headway.  A few of them just didn’t give themselves enough time.  In fact, my sister asked to borrow my copy three days before our meeting.  I explained to her that she would never be able to finish it in that amount of time!  There was also a member who put the book down for good midway through.  That was a bit shocking to me, because while I could understand how they beginning was a bit slow, I definitely was in it for good but the hundred page mark.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

The medical terminology and descriptions in this book are abundant.  Verghese is apparently a surgeon of some kind, and that is glaringly obvious in reading the book!  I actually was completely interested in the medical aspect of the book though, and I also love to be “grossed out”, so I had absolutely no problem with it.  Surprisingly enough, there was only one member of my book club that did seem bothered by it, and she was the only other one to finish the book.  I think she found it a bit polarizing.

Expect a rollercoaster with this one.  Your emotions will be toyed with (in a good way, I hope), while still being able to appreciate the wonderful writing and the lush landscape.

Other Reviews:

The Boston Bibliophile

Booking Mama

S Krishna’s Books

Farm Lane Books Blog

The Literate Housewife

Caribous Mom

Fizzy Thoughts

A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook

Lakeside Musing

I purchased this book . . . maybe from Barnes & Noble?!

10 Responses

  1. Hm, not sure this one’s for me… Question, though – do the twins STAY connected at the head? Or are they separated?

  2. I *loved* this book, but I read it almost two years ago, and really need to reread it, because it was so wonderful!

  3. I’ve had this one on the wish list for awhile now. Perhaps I’ll use the Barnes and Noble christmas gift card….

  4. So glad you liked this one, I completely loved it when I read it last year. It was definitely a favorite for me too!

  5. This was one of my favorite books last year and I agree, it was so hard to write a review for this because there is just so much that happens. I don’t necessarily like “medical” stuff but found that it was so fascinating and readable the way it was handled in the book.

  6. If I were to do a favorites list this year, which I’m not, this would be on it!

  7. How disappointing that only one other member finished the book! It will be on my favorites list this year, too.

  8. My sister just told me this was her favorite novel of 2010. I just got myself a copy, and I can’t wait to read it! I hope I’m one of those who loves it…most people I know have been.

  9. This was one of my favourite reads this year so I’m pleased that you enjoyed it too. It is quite sad that only one other member of your book club finished it – I’m sure they’d have loved it if they had given it enough time.

    I think medical doctors write fantastic books. I loved the details, but felt it never got too complcated for me to understand what was going on. I hope he decides to write more books.

  10. I don’t usually read chunksters, but this one sounds great. I may have to make an exception.

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