Monday, April 25, 2011

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone
by Abraham Verghese, Vintage, January 2010

this is a sweeping saga...that you should dive into

Cutting for Stone (drawn from a phrase in the Hippocratic Oath) is a sweeping saga set in India, Ethiopia and New York City. The author, Abraham Verghese, has drawn from his own life as a surgeon and Indian immigrant to America as he tells a tale of conjoined twin boys born to an Indian nun and a talented British surgeon. The majority of the action is set in Addis Abba and the political events of the last half of the 20th century are the backdrop for this story of love - parental love, fraternal love, unrequited love and love of country and community. I really don’t want to give away too many plot details so you have the pleasure of gradually understanding and being drawn into this complex compelling story yourself.

A couple things stand out about the story. First, Verghese has a talent for creating characters that are fully developed and giving them both heart and soul. Each of the major players has a back-story told with sufficient detail to allow understanding of their actions in the story. Secondly there is a strong sense of place in this story, I’ve never been to Ethiopia but after reading this I feel like I have. The descriptions of Addis right down to the food really brought it to life for me. Can’t wait to try some injera! Lastly the author’s ability to integrate the medical aspects of this story into the narrative I thought was exceptional. I do have a medical background so I wasn’t at all put off with his descriptions of surgical procedures but some readers might be. I thought the author’s passion for medicine and surgery came through in his writing.

While I really enjoyed this story I do have two criticisms. The story was long and I think a good editor could have helped in tightening some of the writing without losing the epic sweep of the story. Secondly, the contrived actions that brought the novel to its conclusion seemed widely unrealistic after a story that was so grounded in the realism of life and medical practice in a third world country. Neither of these criticisms should keep you from diving into this story. I eagerly await this author’s next effort.

I read a copy of this book I borrowed from a friend.


Zibilee said...

I am so excited that you mostly liked this one! I bought it awhile ago after reading some wonderful reviews and am anxious to make the time for it. I will have to keep your comments about the ending in mind when I do get to it. Thanks for the very detailed and thoughtful review!

Anonymous said...

I am glad you enjoyed this one. I thought it was awesome.

Liz V. said...

Friend recommended. How right she was. Have been recommending since, and order his two other books.

Greg Zimmerman said...

This is, indeed, a great novel. I felt like it was the rare novel for which the back-stories for the characters were as critical to the story as the actual events of the novel. For that reason, I didn't have a problem with its length - but I like really long books.

Very interesting learning about some of history of Eritrea, too. I didn't know anything about that country until reading this book.

I do disagree, though, that the end was contrived. I thought it was very carefully plotted all the way through - giving us clues and building slowly what would happen. That ending only could've resulted having known that's how it'd end from the beginning - which makes it anything but contrived, in my view.

Good review - I enjoyed your take on it.

Kathy said...

Thanks for all of the comments

Ziblee, get right on it, you'll enjoy

Lola, you're right awesome

Liz, I am also widely recommending this to friends

Greg, I think you are right on - contrived - is not the right word, I just found the ending a little hard to accept in a novel that had such a realistic point of view throughout the story.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for linking this to the party. Your reviews are amazing and bring so much to the link-up. I have also posted this on my Facebook page.

Again, thanks for linking. You are appreciated.


Julie said...

Rawr! I'm so mad at myself; my last trip to the bookstore found this in. my. hands. ... and I put it back to get another time, because my book-buying wallet was squealing. I'm definitely getting it on my next buying trip!

Hopping by from Cym's book party!

Sayeth said...

It sounds really interesting. I'll have to put it on my to-read list.

Visiting via Cym's Book party.

Carole said...

i just finished reading this book today and i think it is one of the best books i've read in the past 20 months.
I agree that the characters really came to life - it was fun, inspirational and educational - but mostly just entertaining . The ending didn't disappoint me, because so many unusual events occurred within this family - it was just part of the "epic" story line for me.

I really enjoyed your review and I highly recommend this book.

Portugal said...

I was a bit skeptical when I first started reading this book; it seemed sorta plain and didn't hum for me until I had read 3 or 4 chapters. After that, I was enthralled with the characters and their lives. Wonderful story. I'll look for more by this author!