Review: Cutting for Stone

Editorial Review - - Jamie Layton

I've been telling everybody to read this superb novel from Abraham Verghese. It is refreshing on every level from the setting (Ethiopia) to its characters (Indian medical workers, twin boys borne of a nun) to a complex web of storylines that covers every emotional base. This is one of those books you don't want to see end and that will leave you hungry for more. Shiva and Marion Stone are ... Read full review

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User Review  - akblanchard - LibraryThing

Young surgeon Marion Stone develops his professional skills in Ethiopia and New York City while dealing with the unusual circumstances surrounding his birth and upbringing. Cutting for Stone defied my ... Read full review

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User Review  - lisapeet - LibraryThing

Good overall, although ultimately the characters never felt all that deeply nuanced. Or rather, the characterization was uneven to the point where they struck me more as vessels to move the plot along ... Read full review

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I liked the book especially Verghese's command of the language and inspiring quotes. With better editing, I believe it would have been an even better novel. As mentioned by others, I didn't feel connected to the characters, but enjoyed the descriptions of the personalities of Ghosh and Hema the most. Marion's obsession with Genet was a bit melodramatic, as was the ending of the story. Why Marion loved her to the extent he did was not really apparent in their relationship. I would definitely recommend the book to those who enjoy highly descriptive stories, especially for those who have a real interest in foreign cultures and medicine.  

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Amazing story
Intellectual and moving

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One of the best books I've ever read. Completely absorbing, Makes me want to visit the country, know its people, learn the language...and wish the characters in it were real.
Reminds me of The Kite Runner.

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Because the book is written so beautifully I highly recommend it, but there is so much detail that it becomes distracting. Sometimes, there is just too much to digest at once, requiring you to put it down to be picked up again later.
At 50 years old, Marion Stone travels from America, back to the land of his birth, and begins to tell the story of his life, for the sake of his twin brother, Shiva, to whom he feels extreme gratitude, for allowing him to become what he is. The book is about self discovery, loyalty, responsibility and justice, as much as it is about things that are missing from life's landscape.
Early on, we learn of Sister Mary Joseph Praise's journey from India to Africa. Following a horrific, treacherous trip in which her traveling companion dies from Typhoid, she disembarks with Dr. Stone, a surgeon, and eventually follows him to a hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he will begin a term of service. She too begins working at Mission Hospital, mistakenly called Missing, a name that has stuck with it over the years because of a problem with the name's pronunciation.
The term missing, is a major focus of the book as is the misnomer of the hospital name. It often has a double meaning becoming a recurrent theme also referring to a finger, a letter, a liver, a pulse, a blood pressure, a parent, a moment in time, a lapse in one's memory, a breath. Dr. Stone's name is prophetic.
Like missing, the term stone also has double meanings throughout the book. He is a cold, impersonal man, showing little emotion and is unable to respond well in a crisis when he finally becomes emotionally involved. His feelings become compromised; he cannot think straight. His brain becomes like a stone. When he has to amputate his own finger, it is likened to cutting for stone on another. The term cutting for stone also refers to a method Shiva developed for a surgical procedure in gynecology. It is also a term used to describe the surgical procedure used in the Middle Ages to extract "the stone of madness".
With the birth of the twins, Marion and Shiva, we learn how they came to be and what they become in life. It is about their experiences and the lives of all those who touched them. Early in the book, we learn that Marion is the more conventional, emotional twin while Shiva is the more literal one. They are the same, yet opposites, mirror images in all ways of personality, emotion and intellect.
Life in Addis Ababa is filled with contradictions. There is an ignorance about medical care and old wive's tales sometimes work as well or at least are tried equally, alongside the deficient medical care available. The world in Ethiopia is often harsh and without basic necessities; poverty abounds.
There are many interesting and thought provoking themes developed in the book, besides the concept of something that is missing and something that becomes intransigent like a stone. There is the theme of owning one's slippers which comes to mean accepting one's life and one's demons to attain peace and go forward. There is the theme of the conflict of what is more important life's pleasures or life's work. How do both desires function together peacefully?
I often found the timeline of this book confusing, perhaps because it was so long, almost 700 pages, and covered so long a time frame, more than 50 years. I was never quite sure how old the twins were at a particular time and often what they were experiencing seemed inappropriate for their supposed age.
As a twin, I identified with the "sameness" of experience and the deep emotional connection of one to the other that the author developed very well.
I believe the book would have been served well with a glossary.

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Good read but a bit too wordy at times.

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User Review  - cmt100 - LibraryThing

Absolutely wonderful. A big, sprawling, splendid book. Read full review

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