Cutting For Stone – Abraham Verghese

‘The Key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.’

Ghosh –  page 286

It might seem a bit over the top but I feel quite emotional after finishing this book. I feel like taking a breath, stepping back and digesting what I have read. This was a slower read for me. A book that spans continents and decades and coming to the end of it, I feel like I’ve come to the end of a journey of my own.

After an unsure start, I now know that a slow read can still be a great read.

The story takes place mostly in Ethiopia and the sights and smells and backdrop of civil unrest make for a fascinating setting and really brought the story alive.

In 1954, twin boys are born in a small hospital in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The shock offspring of an Indian nun and English surgeon, Marion and Shiva are identical, very different and very close throughout their childhood. Growing up in Missing, the hospital of their birth, theirs is a life surrounded by doctors, medicine, unconventional yet special family amidst a combination of Ethiopian and Indian culture.

Abraham Verghese is a doctor, as are many of the characters in his novel. This is a story about the heart and soul of medicine, about a life of dedication to healing, and what it means and takes to do that properly. For a lot of people the surgical scenes may be a bit detailed. I thought so initially but they are such an essential part of the story – an illustration of precision and passion, and they balance out over the 500 + pages.

This is the first book I have read about Ethiopia. I didn’t know that much about it beforehand. I didn’t know about the Italian and Indian influences or that it was one of the oldest countries in the world. I knew it was a financially poor country but had never really considered the devastating effect of this lack of resources on the people living there. As well as being a great read, I appreciated the opportunity to learn a little more.

Visit Eva at A Striped Armchair for a lovely list of books about Ethiopia

Read for the Chunkster, Global and Support your local library challenges.

2009, 534 pages


8 responses to “Cutting For Stone – Abraham Verghese

  1. What a beautiful, thoughtful review. Thank you!

  2. I won a give-away of this book last week and I am itching to read it! It sounds wonderful. On Eva’s list is a book that I highly recommend (and think this sounds similar to), Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb.

    • Claire – How wonderful to win it – can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Enjoy.

      Thank you for the recommendation – I am definitely going to look out for this. I love the title.

  3. I loved this book! I hadn’t read a book set in Ethiopia either and learnt a lot by reading this book. I hope that he decides to write another one.

    • Jackie – Isn’t it fantastic! I hope he writes another as well. I read somewhere that this one was several years in the writing which is totally understandable..

  4. You have a great blog going here!

    Thanks for dropping by and glad to know of someone who like the “The Blinding Absence of Light” by Tahar Ben Jelloun.

    I have been itching to read this book, and will get around reading it soon. Your opening para blew me away. I have a gut feeling this book “Cutting for Stone” can be life changing too!

  5. Loved this book so much. I’ve literally just put it down and had tears in my eyes.

    A love story, a human story, an evocation of humanity, a medical fascination. Above all else, it simply didn’t stop unfolding.

    I lived in Ethiopia last year and as a result of seeing the impact that FGC has had on so many girls and women, now work with the Orchid Project to campaign against it.

    As I read the book, so many sights and sounds of Addis came back to me. It was wonderful to have that little reminder of the place, so strongly written, so powerfully described.

    I highly recommend this book. I would also urge anyone who would like to travel in Africa to visit Ethiopia – it’s the most wonderful country and an incredible place.

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