Title: Cutting for Stone
Author: Abraham Verghese
Publication Year: 2009
Count for Year: 15
How I discovered
During a dinner last month with some friends from our church, two of them, who are in the medical professional, recommended Verghese’s first novel. They both gushed over how great a book it was and then at the end of the month Beastmomma in her Sunday Salon post mentioned how she was reading it also. Later, when I mentioned on Twitter that I was reading it, both Rebecca @ The Book Lady’s Blog and SuziQOregon @ Whimpulsive gushed over it also (click on links for their reviews).
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twin come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.
Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles — and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.
– from the back of the book
Now in my fiftieth year, I venerate the sight of the abdomen or chest laid open. I’m ashamed of our human capacity to hurt and maim one another, to desecrate the body. Yet it allows me to see the cabalistic harmony of heart peeking out behind lung, of liver and spleen consulting each other under the dome of the diaphragm– these things leave me speechless. My fingers “run the bowel” looking for holes that a blade or bullet might have created, coil after glistening coil, twenty-three feet of it compacted into such a small space. The gut that has slithered past my fingers like this in the African night would by now reach the Cape of Good Hope, and I have yet to see the serpent’s head. But I do see the ordinary miracles under skin and rib and muscle, visions concealed from their owner. Is there a greater privilege on earth?
Some nights the crickets cry zaa-zee, zaa-zee, thousands of them drowning out the coughs and grunts of the hyenas in the hillsides. Suddenly, nature turns quiet. It is as if roll call is over and it is time now in the darkness to find your mate and retreat. In the ensuing vacuum of silence, I hear the high-pitched humming of the stars and I feel exultant, thankful for my insignificant place in the galaxy. It is at such times that I feel my indebtedness to Shiva.
To say, I was immediately hooked would be an understatement. I knew from such passages that this had the potential to be one of the best books I had ever read– and I’m glad to say that it lived up to that potential, thanks in great part to the incredible crafting of this novel by Verghese over several years. This, in short, is a masterpiece and deserves every award that it receives, including the 2010 Indies Choice Book Award for Adult Fiction, which will presented at Book Expo America 2010 in New York and the award for Fiction for books published in 2009 from the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.
Like Rebecca in her review, I almost didn’t know where to begin to do justice to how great it is in such a small review like this, and even after taking my time to read the book over a few weeks, because I didn’t want to devour it in one sitting and wanted to absorb it and have it absorb me, I’m still somewhat at a loss how to do justice to its greatness. For me, truly the only way to do even partial justice is to give it my highest rating: 5 of 5, because well, in short, it’s that good– if not better than that. If I really were to do it justice, I’d give it a 6 out of 5.
No, don’t walk to get this one at your local bookstore or library. Run. Now.
5- Classic, must read
4- Worth owning a copy
3- Worth picking up at library
2- Worth skimming at the bookstore
1- Worth being a doorstop
If you have reviewed Cutting for Stone and would like your review to be listed here, add your link in the comments and I will add her as well.
FTC Disclosure (and plug for a local bookstore): I didn’t receive a copy of this book from the publisher, but purchased it at From My Shelf Bookstore in Wellsboro.