Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cutting for Stone: Book Review

I recently completed the novel Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

Set primarily in Ethiopia, the book is narrated by central character Dr. Marion Praise Stone. Born conjoined with his identical twin brother in a Mission Hospital, Marion never knew his biological mother, a young Indian nun who died in childbirth. His British-born father, presumably consumed with grief, fled the same day. Thus the boys were adopted at the mission by close friends of their parents who gave them a wonderful childhood and raised both boys to be brilliant doctors.

Complex events involving love, war, and politics ultimately force Marion to flee to the United States after medical school. The story picks up as the reader is drawn into the life of a foreign-born medical intern in a poor inner city New York hospital. Here, Marion has a chance encounter with his biological father, for whom he harbors a great deal of anger. But he is haunted by a promise to his beloved adoptive father. Ultimately, Marion seeks out the senior Dr. Stone and also determines to trace his mother's story from her roots in India to her death in Ethiopia. In the exploring and telling of his parents' story, he is forced to confront his own story, and come to terms with his life and relationships, learning about love and forgiveness.

I admit, it took me a long time to get into this book. I found the prose at times to be too elaborate and I was bored by what seemed to be unnecessarily long descriptions of the scenery and to some extent, of the political situation in post WWII Ethiopia. It was honestly a chore to read and nearly 200 pages in, I almost gave up. But something about the story intrigued me and by time I was a little more than half way into the novel, I was deeply hooked, fascinated, compelled not only to read to the end, but to go back and immediately re-read the first several chapters. Then I wanted to read everything I could about the author and Ethiopia - so moving was the story once it fully unfolded.

Despite the difficult beginning, this book has so many elements of a great story - blending history, politics, culture, and medicine with self-discovery, a love story, mystery and adventure. I really loved the book and would recommend it.

Four out of five stars.

Amazon book link

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