Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone

by Abraham Verghese

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Overview

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

A sweeping, emotionally riveting novel with over one million copies sold—an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375714368
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/26/2010
Pages: 688
Sales rank: 32,803
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Abraham Verghese is Professor and Vice Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, he is the author of My Own Country, a 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a Time Best Book of the Year; The Tennis Partner, a New York Times Notable Book; and, most recently, the critically acclaimed novel Cutting for Stone, which was a national bestseller. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his essays and short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Granta, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. In 2016 Verghese received a National Humanities Medal from President Obama. He lives in Palo Alto, California.

Read an Excerpt

The Coming

After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954. We took our first breaths at an elevation of eight thousand feet in the thin air of Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. The miracle of our birth took place in Missing Hospital’s Operating Theater 3, the very room where our mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, spent most of her working hours, and in which she had been most fulfilled.

When our mother, a nun of the Diocesan Carmelite Order of Madras, unexpectedly went into labor that September morning, the big rain in Ethiopia had ended, its rattle on the corrugated tin roofs of Missing ceasing abruptly like a chatterbox cut off in midsentence. Over night, in that hushed silence, the meskel flowers bloomed, turning the hillsides of Addis Ababa into gold. In the meadows around Missing the sedge won its battle over mud, and a brilliant carpet now swept right up to the paved threshold of the hospital, holding forth the promise of something more substantial than cricket, croquet, or shuttlecock.

Missing sat on a verdant rise, the irregular cluster of whitewashed one- and two-story buildings looking as if they were pushed up from the ground in the same geologic rumble that created the Entoto Mountains. Troughlike flower beds, fed by the runoff from the roof gutters, surrounded the squat buildings like a moat. Matron Hirst’s roses overtook the walls, the crimson blooms framing every window and reaching to the roof. So fertile was that loamy soil that Matron—Missing Hospital’s wise and sensible leader—cautioned us against stepping into it barefoot lest we sprout new toes.

Five trails flanked by shoulder-high bushes ran away from the main hospital buildings like spokes of a wheel, leading to five thatched-roof bungalows that were all but hidden by copse, by hedgerows, by wild eucalyptus and pine. It was Matron’s intent that Missing resemble an arboretum, or a corner of Kensington Gardens (where, before she came to Africa, she used to walk as a young nun), or Eden before the Fall.

Missing was really Mission Hospital, a word that on the Ethiopian tongue came out with a hiss so it sounded like “Missing.” A clerk in the Ministry of Health who was a fresh high-school graduate had typed out the missing hospital on the license, a phonetically correct spelling as far as he was concerned. A reporter for the Ethiopian Herald perpetuated this misspelling. When Matron Hirst had approached the clerk in the ministry to correct this, he pulled out his original typescript. “See for yourself, madam. Quod erat demonstrandum it is Missing,” he said, as if he’d proved Pythagoras’s theorem, the sun’s central position in the solar system, the roundness of the earth, and Missing’s precise location at its imagined corner. And so Missing it was.


Not a cry or a groan escaped from Sister Mary Joseph Praise while in the throes of her cataclysmic labor. But just beyond the swinging door in the room adjoining Operating Theater 3, the oversize autoclave (donated by the Lutheran church in Zurich) bellowed and wept for my mother while its scalding steam sterilized the surgical instruments and towels that would be used on her. After all, it was in the corner of the autoclave room, right next to that stainless-steel behemoth, that my mother kept a sanctuary for herself during the seven years she spent at Missing before our rude arrival. Her one-piece desk-and-chair, rescued from a defunct mission school, and bearing the gouged frustration of many a pupil, faced the wall. Her white cardigan, which I am told she often slipped over her shoulders when she was between operations, lay over the back of the chair.

On the plaster above the desk my mother had tacked up a calendar print of Bernini’s famous sculpture of St. Teresa of Avila. The figure of St. Teresa lies limp, as if in a faint, her lips parted in ecstasy, her eyes unfocused, lids half closed. On either side of her, a voyeuristic chorus peers down from the prie-dieux. With a faint smile and a body more muscular than befits his youthful face, a boy angel stands over the saintly, voluptuous sister. The fingertips of his left hand lift the edge of the cloth covering her bosom. In his right hand he holds an arrow as delicately as a violinist holds a bow.

Why this picture? Why St. Teresa, Mother?

As a little boy of four, I took myself away to this windowless room to study the image. Courage alone could not get me past that heavy door, but my sense that she was there, my obsession to know the nun who was my mother, gave me strength. I sat next to the autoclave which rumbled and hissed like a waking dragon, as if the hammering of my heart had roused the beast. Gradually, as I sat at my mother’s desk, a peace would come over me, a sense of communion with her.

I learned later that no one had dared remove her cardigan from where it sat draped on the chair. It was a sacred object. But for a four-yearold, everything is sacred and ordinary. I pulled that Cuticura-scented garment around my shoulders. I rimmed the dried-out inkpot with my nail, tracing a path her fingers had taken. Gazing up at the calendar print just as she must have while sitting there in that windowless room, I was transfixed by that image. Years later, I learned that St. Teresa’s recurrent vision of the angel was called the transverberation, which the dictionary said was the soul “inflamed” by the love of God, and the heart “pierced” by divine love; the metaphors of her faith were also the metaphors of medicine. At four years of age, I didn’t need words like “transverberation” to feel reverence for that image. Without photographs of her to go by, I couldn’t help but imagine that the woman in the picture was my mother, threatened and about to be ravished by the spear-wielding boy-angel. “When are you coming, Mama?” I would ask, my small voice echoing off the cold tile. When are you coming?

I would whisper my answer: “By God!” That was all I had to go by: Dr. Ghosh’s declaration the time I’d first wandered in there and he’d come looking for me and had stared at the picture of St. Teresa over my shoulders; he lifted me in his strong arms and said in that voice of his that was every bit a match for the autoclave: “She is CUM-MING, by God!”



Forty-six and four years have passed since my birth, and miraculously I have the opportunity to return to that room. I find I am too large for that chair now, and the cardigan sits atop my shoulders like the lace amice of a priest. But chair, cardigan, and calendar print of transverberation are still there. I, Marion Stone, have changed, but little else has. Being in that unaltered room propels a thumbing back through time and memory. The unfading print of Bernini’s statue of St. Teresa (now framed and under glass to preserve what my mother tacked up) seems to demand this. I am forced to render some order to the events of my life, to say it began here, and then because of this, that happened, and this is how the end connects to the beginning, and so here I am.



We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot. I grew up and I found my purpose and it was to become a physician. My intent wasn’t to save the world as much as to heal myself.
Few doctors will admit this, certainly not young ones, but subconsciously, in entering the profession, we must believe that ministering to others will heal our woundedness. And it can. But it can also deepen the wound.

I chose the specialty of surgery because of Matron, that steady presence during my boyhood and adolescence. “What is the hardest thing you can possibly do?” she said when I went to her for advice on the darkest day of the first half of my life. I squirmed. How easily Matron probed the gap between ambition and expediency. “Why must I do what is hardest?”

“Because, Marion, you are an instrument of God. Don’t leave the instrument sitting in its case, my son. Play! Leave no part of your instrument unexplored. Why settle for ‘Three Blind Mice’ when you can play the ‘Gloria’?”

How unfair of Matron to evoke that soaring chorale which always made me feel that I stood with every mortal creature looking up to the heavens in dumb wonder. She understood my unformed character.

“But, Matron, I can’t dream of playing Bach, the ‘Gloria’ . . . ,” I said under my breath. I’d never played a string or wind instrument. I couldn’t read music.

“No, Marion,” she said, her gaze soft, reaching for me, her gnarled hands rough on my cheeks. “No, not Bach’s ‘Gloria.’ Yours! Your ‘Gloria’ lives within you. The greatest sin is not finding it, ignoring what God made possible in you.”

I was temperamentally better suited to a cognitive discipline, to an introspective field—internal medicine, or perhaps psychiatry. The sight of the operating theater made me sweat. The idea of holding a scalpel caused coils to form in my belly. (It still does.) Surgery was the most difficult thing I could imagine.

And so I became a surgeon.

Thirty years later, I am not known for speed, or daring, or technical genius. Call me steady, call me plodding; say I adopt the style and technique that suits the patient and the particular situation and I’ll consider that high praise. I take heart from my fellow physicians who come to me when they themselves must suffer the knife. They know that Marion Stone will be as involved after the surgery as before and during. They know I have no use for surgical aphorisms such as “When in doubt, cut it out” or “Why wait when you can operate” other than for how reliably they reveal the shallowest intellects in our field. My father, for whose skills as a surgeon I have the deepest respect, says, “The operation with the best outcome is the one you decide not to do.” Knowing when not to operate, knowing when I am in over my head, knowing when to call for the assistance of a surgeon of my father’s caliber—that kind of talent, that kind of “brilliance,” goes unheralded.

On one occasion with a patient in grave peril, I begged my father to operate. He stood silent at the bedside, his fingers lingering on the patient’s pulse long after he had registered the heart rate, as if he needed the touch of skin, the thready signal in the radial artery to catalyze his decision. In his taut expression I saw complete concentration. I imagined I could see the cogs turning in his head; I imagined I saw the shimmer of tears in his eyes. With utmost care he weighed one option against another. At last, he shook his head, and turned away.

I followed. “Dr. Stone,” I said, using his title though I longed to cry out, Father! “An operation is his only chance,” I said. In my heart I knew the chance was infinitesimally small, and the first whiff of anesthesia might end it all. My father put his hand on my shoulder. He spoke to me gently, as if to a junior colleague rather than his son. “Marion, remember the Eleventh Commandment,” he said. “Thou shall not operate on the day of a patient’s death.”

I remember his words on full-moon nights in Addis Ababa when knives are flashing and rocks and bullets are flying, and when I feel as if I am standing in an abattoir and not in Operating Theater 3, my skin flecked with the grist and blood of strangers. I remember. But you don’t always know the answers before you operate. One operates in the now. Later, the retrospectoscope, that handy tool of the wags and pundits, the conveners of the farce we call M&M—morbidity and mortality conference—will pronounce your decision right or wrong. Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.

Now, in my fiftieth year, I venerate the sight of the abdomen or chest laid open. I’m ashamed of our human capacity to hurt and maim one another, to desecrate the body. Yet it allows me to see the cabalistic harmony of heart peeking out behind lung, of liver and spleen consulting each other under the dome of the diaphragm—these things leave me speechless. My fingers “run the bowel” looking for holes that a blade or bullet might have created, coil after glistening coil, twenty-three feet of it compacted into such a small space. The gut that has slithered past my fingers like this in the African night would by now reach the Cape of Good Hope, and I have yet to see the serpent’s head. But I do see the ordinary miracles under skin and rib and muscle, visions concealed from their owner. Is there a greater privilege on earth?

At such moments I remember to thank my twin brother, Shiva—Dr. Shiva Praise Stone—to seek him out, to find his reflection in the glass panel that separates the two operating theaters, and to nod my thanks because he allows me to be what I am today. A surgeon. According to Shiva, life is in the end about fixing holes. Shiva didn’t speak in metaphors. Fixing holes is precisely what he did. Still, it’s an apt metaphor for our profession. But there’s another kind of hole, and that is the wound that divides family. Sometimes this wound occurs at the moment of birth, sometimes it happens later. We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We’ll leave much unfinished for the next generation.

Born in Africa, living in exile in America, then returning at last to Africa, I am proof that geography is destiny. Destiny has brought me back to the precise coordinates of my birth, to the very same operating theater where I was born. My gloved hands share the space above the table in Operating Theater 3 that my mother and father’s hands once occupied.

Some nights the crickets cry zaa-zee, zaa-zee, thousands of them drowning out the coughs and grunts of the hyenas in the hillsides. Suddenly, nature turns quiet. It is as if roll call is over and it is time now in the darkness to find your mate and retreat. In the ensuing vacuum of silence, I hear the high-pitched humming of the stars and I feel exultant, thankful for my insignificant place in the galaxy. It is at such times that I feel my indebtedness to Shiva.

Twin brothers, we slept in the same bed till our teens, our heads touching, our legs and torsos angled away. We outgrew that intimacy, but I still long for it, for the proximity of his skull. When I wake to the gift of yet another sunrise, my first thought is to rouse him and say, I owe you the sight of morning.

What I owe Shiva most is this: to tell the story. It is one my mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, did not reveal and my fearless father, Thomas Stone, ran from, and which I had to piece together. Only the telling can heal the rift that separates my brother and me. Yes, I have infinite faith in the craft of surgery, but no surgeon can heal the kind of wound that divides two brothers. Where silk and steel fail, story must succeed. To begin at the beginning . . .


What People are Saying About This

Atul Gawande

"Cutting for Stone is a tremendous accomplishment. The writing is vivid and thrilling, and the story completely absorbing, with its pregnant Indian nun, demon-ridden British surgeon, Siamese twins orphaned and severed at birth, and narrative strands stretching across four continents. A tale this wild is perilous, but there is not a false step anywhere. Accomplished non-fiction writers do not necessarily make accomplished novelists, but with Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese has become both. This is a novel sure to receive a great amount of critical attention-and attention from readers, too. I feel lucky to have gotten to read it."

Tracy Kidder

"Abraham Verghese has always written with grace, precision and feeling [but] he's topped himself with Cutting for Stone. . . . A vastly entertaining and enlightening book."

Pauline W. Chen

"A marvelous novel. To read the first page of Cutting for Stone is to fall hopelessly under the spell of a masterful storyteller; and to try to close the book thereafter is to tear oneself away from the most vivid of dreams. Cutting for Stone is a gorgeous epic tale, suffused with unforgettable grace, humanity and compassion. Verghese breathes such life into his characters that there is a poignant familiarity to them, one that lingers and haunts long after the dream is over. Verghese has once again set the bar and re-defined great medical literature-great literature period-for the rest of us."--(Pauline W. Chen, author of Final Exam)

Mark Salzman

"Absolutely fantastic! Holy cow, this book should be a huge success. It has everything: nuns, conjoined twins, civil war, and medicine-I was thinking that if Vikram Seth and Oliver Sacks were to collaborate on a four-hour episode of Grey's Anatomy set in Africa, they could only hope to come up with something this moving and entertaining. . . . A marvelous novel!"

John Burnham Schwartz

"Abraham Verghese has long been one of my favorite authors. Yet, much as I admire his abundant gifts as both writer and physician, nothing could have prepared me for the great achievement of his first novel. Here is an extraordinary imagination, artfully shaped and forcefully developed, wholly given in service to a human story that is deeply moving, utterly gripping, and, indeed, unforgettable. Cutting for Stone is a work of literature as noble and dramatic as that ancient practice-medicine-that lies at the heart of this magnificent novel."--(John Burnham Schwartz, author of The Commoner and Reservation Road)

Reading Group Guide

“A winner. . . . Filled with mystical scenes and deeply felt characters. . . . Verghese is something of a magician as a novelist.” —USA Today

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's discussion of Abraham Verghese's acclaimed novel, Cutting for Stone.

1. Abraham Verghese has said that his ambition in writing Cutting for Stone was to “tell a great story, an old-fashioned, truth-telling story.” In what ways is Cutting for Stone an old-fashioned story—and what does it share with the great novels of the nineteenth century? What essential human truths does it convey?

2. What does Cutting for Stone reveal about the emotional lives of doctors? Contrast the attitudes of Hema, Ghosh, Marion, Shiva, and Thomas Stone toward their work. What draws each of them to the practice of medicine? How are they affected, emotionally and otherwise, by the work they do?

3. Marion observes that in Ethiopia, patients assume that all illnesses are fatal and that death is expected, but in America, news of having a fatal illness “always seemed to come as a surprise, as if we took it for granted that we were immortal” [p. 486]. What other important differences does Cutting for Stone reveal about the way illness is viewed and treated in Ethiopia and in the United States? To what extent are these differences reflected in the split between poor hospitals, like the one in the Bronx where Marion works, and rich hospitals like the one in Boston where his father works?

4. In the novel, Thomas Stone asks, “What treatment in an emergency is administered by ear?” The correct answer is “Words of comfort.” How does this moment encapsulate the book's surprising take on medicine? Have your experiences with doctors and hospitals held this to be true? Why or why not? What doesCutting for Stone tell us about the roles of compassion, faith, and hope in medicine?

5. There are a number of dramatic scenes on operating tables in Cutting for Stone: the twins' births, Thomas Stone amputating his own finger, Ghosh untwisting Colonel Mebratu's volvulus, the liver transplant, etc. How does Verghese use medical detail to create tension and surprise? What do his depictions of dramatic surgeries share with film and television hospital dramas—and yet how are they different?

6. Marion suffers a series of painful betrayals—by his father, by Shiva, and by Genet. To what degree is he able, by the end of the novel, to forgive them?

7. To what extent does the story of Thomas Stone's childhood soften Marion's judgment of him? How does Thomas's suffering as a child, the illness of his parents, and his own illness help to explain why he abandons Shiva and Marion at their birth? How should Thomas finally be judged?

8. In what important ways does Marion come to resemble his father, although he grows up without him? How does Marion grow and change over the course of the novel?

9. A passionate, unique love affair sets Cutting for Stone in motion, and yet this romance remains a mystery—even to the key players—until the very conclusion of the novel. How does the relationship between Sister Mary Joseph Praise and Thomas Stone affect the lives of Shiva and Marion, Hema and Ghosh, Matron and everyone else at Missing? What do you think Verghese is trying to say about the nature of love and loss?

10. What do Hema, Matron, Rosina, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, Genet, and Tsige—as well as the many women who come to Missing seeking medical treatment—reveal about what life is like for women in Ethiopia?

11. Addis Ababa is at once a cosmopolitan city thrumming with life and the center of a dictatorship rife with conflict. How do the influences of Ethiopia's various rulers—England, Italy, Emperor Selassie—reveal themselves in day-to-day life? How does growing up there affect Marion's and Shiva's worldviews?

12. As Ghosh nears death, Marion comments that the man who raised him had no worries or regrets, that “there was no restitution he needed to make, no moment he failed to seize” [p. 424]. What is the key to Ghosh's contentment? What makes him such a good father, doctor, and teacher? What wisdom does he impart to Marion?

13. Although it's also a play on the surname of the characters, the title Cutting for Stone comes from a line in the Hippocratic Oath: “I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.” Verghese has said that this line comes from ancient times, when bladder stones were epidemic and painful: “There were itinerant stone cutters—lithologists—who could cut into either the bladder or the perineum and get the stone out, but because they cleaned the knife by wiping their blood-stiffened surgical aprons, patients usually died of infection the next day.” How does this line resonate for the doctors in the novel?

14. Almost all of the characters in Cutting for Stone are living in some sort of exile, self-imposed or forced, from their home country—Hema and Ghosh from India, Marion from Ethiopia, Thomas from India and then Ethiopia. Verghese is of Indian descent but was born and raised in Ethiopia, went to medical school in India, and has lived and worked in the United States for many years. What do you think this novel says about exile and the immigrant experience? How does exile change these characters, and what do they find themselves missing the most about home?


(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

Interviews

LOVE AND MEDICINE by Abraham Verghese.

Someone once told me, or perhaps I read this, that stories with a dog and a doctor in them are universally appealing because we are fascinated by the doings of both creatures-it's in our genes. That aphorism had nothing to do with my choice of subjects for my novel CUTTING FOR STONE, even though my book has both doctors (many) and dogs (one named, and several nameless) within its pages.

Instead, my goal was simply to tell an epic tale steeped in medicine and medical lore, and to convey the unabashed love I feel for medicine, for the way I see it is to this day as a romantic and passionate pursuit just as it was the first day I stepped on the ward, a love affair that can save you and kill you, complete your character or exaggerate your deficiencies. Call me mad, but it's a madness I won't trade for a life in any other world. And so I'll confess I wanted every page of CUTTING FOR STONE to be true to that sentiment, to be redolent of medicine, to give off the very hospital fumes on which I cut my teeth and which I now need to breathe, just the way Zola's novel PARIS seems on every page to emanate the scents and sounds of the street. So you can imagine what a happy, unexpected surprise it is to find readers telling me they think of my book not as a medical story, but as a love story.

Medicine and love seems worlds apart at first blush, but really they are not. Love that may be hidden outside becomes very visible in the hospital, popping out like the rabbit out of a hat. I don't mean just the falling-off-a-cliff , can't-get-you-out-of-my-mind madness of blooming love, (which is as common in the hospital as out and can get you into just as much trouble in no time, ask anybody); I'm talking about the love of parents caring for a child with fatal illness; or adult children expressing love for a sick and aging parent, or the love that keeps one spouse caring for a partner who has lost the very mental faculties that made the person they once were. And let's include love of a needle, or the bottle, or of the crack pipe, or meth-costly love, the pursuit of which often kills the body. Then there's love of career, money, reputation-each comes with its own hazards. It's a cliché I suppose, but God, so true, that you don't know what love means till you lose it or are about to lose it. The emptiness, the hollowness defines it better than its presence: think Auden in STOP ALL THE CLOCKS:

"The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good."

Paradoxically hospitals are places to loose and to rediscover love. Wallace Stevens has a line, "The body dies; the body's beauty lives." You can meditate on a line like that for ever. To me it has come to mean that we live in those who survive us, we live in their love which is the central theme I suppose of my book. So maybe that is why my novel turned out to be a love story at heart, at least in the eyes of many readers who have done me the honor of not just reading the book but communicating their thoughts; because what makes life poignant, incredibly poignant, is that we are all going to die. Roses would be mere weeds if they didn't bloom and fade and stuck around forever. We humans are the only species that is aware of our own mortality (so a scientist friend told me). Other animals are oblivious and if they were aware, they'd go nuts-who could blame them? But we humans, we the living, we who find love, lose love, plod on, despite the knowledge that it all ends, perhaps denying that knowledge even though it is all around us. And we plod on because it doesn't end. Not really.

The body dies, the body's beauty lives.

Love dies. Love never dies.

Customer Reviews

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Cutting for Stone 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2193 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't miss this incredible novel -- one of the finest books I've read in many years. It's an amazing story of fact and fiction, man and medicine, faith and doubt, hope and dreams, and the incredible courage to survive and achieve. It is so well written you become part of the story, cannot put the book down, and are disappointed when there is no more to read. But I immediately bought the author's two non-fiction books, which are like sequels to the novel, and was equally impressed with them. Presuming he's as good a doctor as he is a writer, he's an amazing man!
WestTexasReader More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book without really thinking about it or employing my usual habit of reading at least the first 8 to 10 pages to see if I would like it. After a bit of a slow start, I could not put this book down. The character development was wonderful. By the end of the book, I felt sad that these characters I had gotten to know so well would no longer be a part of my life. The story also takes the reader through several years and many continents making the story even more enjoyable and educational. I enjoyed this book so much that I gave my Kindle to my eldest daughter so that she could read it, and bought a hardback copy so that my youngest daughter and husband could read and enjoy it also. I am now considering reading the book again - just for my own enjoyment. Don't miss this wonderful book! I have recommended it to many of my friends and I am now recommending it to you!
Sharlbeav More than 1 year ago
This is absolutely one of my all-time favorite reads! I found myself slowing down at the end because I didn't want the story to come to an end. And when I did finish, I just wanted to hug the book. The characters were so real and richly developed. I was transported to another time and place and didn't want to leave. And the way the compassion and love of medicine was woven into the story was pure genius. Abraham Verghese is not only a talented writer, but the doctor that all patients wish to find.
HEDI09 More than 1 year ago
This high caliber, moving novel begins and ends with very difficult surgeries. While very technical, this beautifully written story of family, love, life, loyalties and compassion is rich in detail, huge in heart, and very insightful. The story shows different perspectives of cultural diversity and moves from India to Ethiopia to a hospital in New York City over decades and generations. Savor the written word, enjoy the experience! I recommend!
LItchfieldCT More than 1 year ago
Having read Dr. Verghese's two works of non-fiction, which are both highly recommended, I could not wait to purchase this book. Unfortunately, I was completely disappointed. The story line while interesting digresses far too often into long, tedious descriptions of medical procedures that leave one wondering if Dr. Verghese's editor ever actually read this work. Several of my friends who are also fans of Dr. Verghese's previous books all commented that they "labored" through this work, and each felt that it was very poorly edited. I suggest you skip this book. However, if you have not read Dr. Verghese's two previous efforts, My Own Country and The Tennis Partner, I urge you to do so. Both of those books are exceptionally well written, moving, and very memorable pieces of literature.
savannahcook More than 1 year ago
"Cutting for Stone" is now on my all-time favorites list, right up there with "Water for Elephants," "Pillars of the Earth," "The Help" and "The Great Santini." I am dying for some of my physician friends to read it so I will have someone to enter into deep discussions with. You will learn about Africa in the same way that you learned about the Middle East through "Kite Runner." This is a beautifully written story of love and loss, but mostly, it is a story of passion - for one's children, for one's career (medicine, in this case), and for a life of service. I was sorry when I read the last page. Verghese is a great writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read seven pages of this book before I rushed out and purchased three more for gifts. My Mom and three sisters are reading or rereading this book. A story unlike any other I have every read, it is entertaining and yet very intellectual. The author paints a picture of Addis Ababa and Asmara, where most of the book takes place - the colors and smells of Africa, its culture, history, become vivid and alive, all the while teaching the reader of medical practices, surgery and those who have served there. In the end, it is about forgiveness and redemption, which only begs the reader to read it again. I have recommended this book to my friends, colleagues, scholars, my doctor and I highly recommend to viewers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not in twenty years have I read a book that I will likely read again. Dr Verghese's style is economical but complete capturing the essence of his characters. An unbelievable story that is woven so tightly without becoming surreal. It speaks to human nature at its best and worst and the backdrops are so descriptive, we are inspired to experience Ethiopia. As a physician myself, I was inspired by the spirit of compassion, caring and competence particularly of Ghosh. He is the quintessential role model.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to admit...I almost gave up on this one. However, by page 100 there was no putting it down. This book has characters that are so believable and real you can't help but love them. What an amazing story this turned out to be. Thank you SOOO much Abraham Verghese!! I can't wait to read the next one!
deLioness More than 1 year ago
This was a very different book. I wasn't sure that I was going to understand all of the medical terms and diagnosis..but this author made it easy to stick with and comprehend. I learned about medicine, geography, friendships, betrayal, loyalty, family and forgiveness. I couldn't put it down! A great read from beginning to end! I never thought that this would be a "subject" that I would read, but am really glad that I did!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book on a library shelf and took it on the chance it might be interesting. Imagine my joy when I discovered I couldn't put it down. I carried this book everywhere until I read the last page and realized how disappointed I was that it had ended. I've ordered several copies in paperback to give as gifts, and I will keep one in my permanent library so I can reread it whenever I choose. My book club will read it this month and I hope to gain additional insights when we discuss it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1947 dedicated to the Lord Sister Mary Joseph Praise leaves Kerala, India for a missionary assignment in Yemen. The voyage mostly by sea is grueling, but Sister Mary has the Lord accompanying her so has no ill affects. She saves the life of Dr. Thomas Stone who is heading to Ethiopia.

Sister Mary and Dr. Stone meet for the first time since their sea trek at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa and she provides him comfort. Sister Mary dies during child birth, but her twin sons Shiva and Marion survive; Thomas never knew although she wrote him a letter explaining all. Adopted by physicians at Missing Hospital, who hide Mary¿s letter, the brothers thrive over the decades until each becomes a doctor.

This is a terrific twenty century epic that wonderfully blends a family drama and medical practices into an Ethiopian political thriller. The well written story line is told by one of the siblings, who vividly explains, the love he and his twin received from his adopted parents, his discovery of the letter, and especially medicine in war torn Ethiopia and in the battle zone of the New York City slums. Although coincidence allows the major early events to occur the way the do, fans will relish this deep tale of two adopted brothers becoming doctors just like their parents and the biological father they do not know.

Harriet Klausner
RSM2507 More than 1 year ago
This book is now on my "Top 10 of All Time" list. After having it suggested to me over and over I finally bought it. The synopsis does not do justice to this expertly written novel. The language was lovely and I'm so glad I had my e-book for definitions. This is one of those books you say to yourself, "I wish I could write like that". Very engaging. I was sad it ended and am looking very forward to his next novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Verghese's novel is amazing. Though I sometimes wondered where the narrative was heading, I was always completely involved in the story line. The characters are both archetypal and original. This book should be at the top of the "you must read this" list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overall, just an absolutely beautifully written novel - writing, plot, characters, everything worked together. I think of it as an epic - the story encompasses fifty years and crosses the globe. I couldn't put this book down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read another book by this author years ago about a doctor in an AIDS hospital in the Carolinas & loved it so I thought I'd give this one a try. Even though this is a book over 500 pages I almost wished it was longer. I enjoy fiction but if I can learn something too....BONUS
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was complete and clearly written, including the medical descriptions. The ending of the story was both a shock and initially quite sad, but could not have left the reader more pleased with the final outcome. All books should be so enjoyable to read. I loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is complex and is well written. The characters are so real and powerful. I loved this book. I'm suprised that not many people I talk to (also book-a-holics like myself) haven't heard of it. I truly hope to hear that more people have found it and read it. It is an excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This will open your eyes to seizing the moment when love arrives. I felt that this book had a dark mood. I would compare ot to the Kite Runner.
HeatherZ More than 1 year ago
This book is a fascinating story about a group of physicians and nurses (ex-patriots) working in a clinic in Ethiopia. The characters are interesting and well-developed, the story is intriguing and the real-life events reflected in the background effectively accentuate the fictional events of the characters. I have to admit that the details of medicine and surgery made this completely irresistible to me but may not be for everyone, because it's very graphic.
Pokiebird More than 1 year ago
The book captures you from the first page. It's not only beautifully written, but the story is amazing. Have to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book. To me the book is of family,dedication, betrayal, redemption, and loss. I laughed and I cried.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing book. Beautifully written. Don't get discouraged by the slow beggining. I have recommended this book to all my friends who love to read.
room145teacher More than 1 year ago
It took a bit of perseverance, but I was rewarded with a brilliant story. Yes, there is a lot of medical jargon, but it is part of who he, the character narrating the story, is (I do not mean the author of the book). It’s what gives the narrator, and the story, the depth and breadth of believability in a made up story with such profoundly tragic and heroic outcomes. I do recommend this book. It is not for everyone. But if you enjoy really good, realistic fiction, that will on one hand challenge your vocabulary while simultaneously on the other hand take you on an incredible journey, then take the plunge.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fabolous . You wont want to put it down! It has been on the Ny Times bestseller list for months. Gotta read it!