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Literature & Fiction Review – Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)


I had no idea what ‘Cutting for Stone’ was about when I added it to my Wish List on PBS.  I saw it on some online book lists and found out some book clubs were reading it.  One day my wish was granted and ‘Cutting for Stone’ made its way to my bookshelf.  When I finally got around to reading it and it was not what I was expecting. 

I think based on the cover image I thought it was going to be about some exotic life story of a man in India.  Hmmm…lesson learned (again) not to judge a book by its cover.    What I got instead was a story of twins set in Ethiopia with a mix of religion, love, grief, betrayal, danger, confusion, and medical journaling thrown in.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twins born in Ethiopia to (surprisingly to all around her) an Indian nun.  Their mother dies as a result of complications in childbirth (I’m not giving anything away here, this is known at the start of the novel) and their father is unknown to them.  They grow up in the hospital compound where their mother served prior to her death and become two distinctly different individuals.  Told from Marion’s perspective, the reader is taken on the tumultuous journey of their lives.

‘Cutting for Stone’ was difficult for me to read at times.  There is little doubt of Verghese’s medical background.  There were sections I merely scanned because it was packed full of medical jargon, treatments, and procedures.  I just don’t have the stomach to read all of that.    But between those areas that merely got my eye skim were pages of really deep emotional turmoil and extreme happiness.  There were moving moments when Marion experiences clarity in his understanding of his life and circumstances.  These moments are the ones that powered the story forward and encouraged me to keep reading.

I would say my overall rating of this book would be 4 stars.  There was a complete ending that answered the questions I had, realistic character development, and a variety of themes that made it interesting.  However, the medical component tended to get too long-winded at times and the flow of the story was disrupted.  So am I glad that my PBS wish was granted and I received ‘Cutting for Stone’?  That answer would be yes…and I’ve already passed it along to someone else and my willingness to do so indicates I think it’s worth reading.

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