Cutting for Stone
By: Abraham Verghese
Let me start this review off by saying that I wasn’t that into this book at first. It took me some time to become involved in the story and the characters. For whatever reason, I was a little standoffish. I think part of it might have been because it seemed a little bit like John Irving’s The Cider House Rules at first. A poor hospital where a baby is born (in this case two babies), but has no mother to care for him. And of course, the talented doctor who runs the show.
At the time, I don’t think I knew that’s why I was hesitant, but looking back, I think these similarities played a part. I love Irving and simply thought no story could compare to Cider House, nor should it even try.
But, I’ve digressed. Cutting for Stone is completely different from Cider House. Besides the details I described above, everything is different. Once I realized things weren’t going the same way, I settled in and enjoyed the story. This book spans generations and continents.
It starts with a nun going from India to Ethiopia and meeting a doctor on her voyage. She ends up catching up with that doctor again and then works alongside him at Missing Hospital. I don’t want to give away too many details, but years later – that nun gives birth to two children and dies in the process. The twins are named Shiva and Marion and their story takes over from there. The reader watches as they grow up, which is narrated by Marion. They live through a lot of political turmoil in Ethiopia and it shapes their lives and destinies.
Don’t be fooled though, this is not a political novel. Marion recounts some of the political happenings throughout his narration, but remains very removed and distant from it all.
Overall, I thought this book was wonderful. I felt I came to understand and love all the characters, even the ones that maybe I wasn’t supposed to. The end of the book was very emotional and I found myself crying at numerous points. Typically, it takes a lot to make me cry in a book – so be prepared if you decide to read it. I highly recommend this book – tears and all.
P.S. – Interesting sidenote is that Verghese took John Irving’s writer’s workshop. So perhaps my feelings of similarity are not completely unwarranted.