Saturday, March 24, 2012
Author: Abraham Verghese
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday/Vintage (Random House)
Pub. Date: February 3, 2009
Somehow this book has been out for about three years now and I only recently really started hearing about it. But what I was hearing about it were great things and a lot of "it was my favorite read of the year" type things. So, despite it's length which is longer than what I usually read, I decided to read this with my sister who read it around the same time.
And I am so very glad I did. This book was epic, yes, and absolutely gorgeous. The writing was beautiful; the setting and atmosphere so beautifully evoked, and the characters (while not all as likeable) were so well brought to life. There were so many things I loved about this book (not to mention the shiny cover is gorgeous as well).
The majority of Cutting for Stone takes place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It starts before the birth of our main characters with their mother, (a nun!) Sister Mary Joseph Praise and their father, a British surgeon, Thomas Stone. No one even realizes Sister Mary Joseph Praise is pregnant, and their discovery is followed shortly thereafter by the birth of twin boys, Marion and Shiva Stone. But abandoned at birth, the boys are raised by others in the community and continue to be exposed to the lifestyle of medical practice that their biological parents both led.
It's hard to say exactly what this book is about because it encompasses so much. It's a lot about the practice of medicine, specifically how it was in Ethiopia from the 80's to current time and how this contrasts with the advanced practice of medicine in America. It's about the boys growing up without their biological parents but with such amazing "adoptive" parents and nannies. It's about the boys' life experiences and betrayals that drive a good portion of the plot. It's about the significant differences in their personalities despite their shared love and pursuit of medical practice. It's about their experiences during the Eritrean coup in Ethiopia during Eritrea's war for independence which they're further affected by due to their Eritrean nanny and her daughter. It's about the actions that lead to one of the brothers leaving for New York, his learning about the cultural divide in America, and another series of events that takes place there.
It's sort of long, and I do think it could have been cut shorter in some places, but overall this is the type of book that makes me enjoy being a reader. I was so immersed in the lives of the characters. I've read that some people were bored or uninterested in some of the medical aspects of the book. There were definitely a lot (the author is himself a practicing doctor), but I loved following along and learning about the characters' passions. It almost made me want to be a surgeon myself. (Almost, haha). Verghese's writing was gorgeous. The characters (even the ones that weren't the most likable) found their ways into my heart. There were amusing moments that made me laugh, and other moments that triggered exclamations or made me cry. Beautifully, beautifully done.