Cutting For Stone

Written by on September 25, 2012 in On Reading

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting For Stone is a wonderfully told story from a unique point of view. The first part of the book is narrated by Marion Stone and takes place in a hospital in Ethiopia, run by Carmelite nuns and volunteers. He tells the story of his birth and that of his twin brother Shiva and all the events leading up to this birth in 1954. Their birth ends with the death of their mother, an Indian nun and the disappearance of their father, a British surgeon. For the first third of the book Marion Stone is just a narrator who is yet to be born or is too small to tell events in real time. In this section of the book we learn about the main characters that will shape Marion’s life. Obviously his mother’s death and father’s disappearance are lingering issues. But for Marion and his brother Shiva, Hema the woman doctor and gynecologist cares for the new twins like their own mother would and Ghosh the other surgeon on staff finds himself playing the role of father. Meanwhile Ethiopia is on the brink of revolution and the makeshift family find themselves inextricably involved.

The story shifts a bit once Marion takes over the narration completely and we are left with this narrower perception of events. The relationship between Marion and his brother develops and the deep bond of both love, jealousy, devotion, betrayal and misunderstanding drives the story forward filling it with tension. Both Marion and Shiva are drawn to medicine like their biological father but in different ways. Twin boys who seem so alike find that their differences lay deep inside the mind and soul and drive them apart. Marion ends up in New York City and Shiva remains in Ethiopia but their connection, whether it is resented or cherished, is as strong as ever. It is when life seems to have left him with only bitterness that Marion finds the deepest and most enduring purpose of his existence.

Forced to make difficult choices throughout, the characters in this book shine, every one of them. The gift of experiencing life through these finely wrought characters was well worth the read all by itself but the wisdom on the page had me highlighting and wanting to read passages to family and friends. The book is really about the power of relationship. The historical aspect of the book gives it an absolute air of authenticity and the medical procedures described gave me new appreciation for not only medicine and surgery but of the value of dedicated physicians who feel compelled to help others. It shows the impact we can have on others both for good and for ill. And that following your path in life may not lead you to blissful joy but it will lead you to where you need to go and show you what you need to know. I enjoyed every word of this 667 page book. I wasn’t sad so much when it ended as I was moved and changed somehow. It happened so subtly it is hard to describe. I cried, I laughed out loud and was shocked. I learned about faraway places and how deep love can be and how desperate people can sometimes behave. It was a beautiful story that will not soon be forgotten. I give it five stars!

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