‘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
2009, 534 pages