Book Review: Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese [TSS]

Title: Cutting for Stone (Vintage)
Author: Abraham Verghese
ISBN: 9780375714368
Pages: 688
Release Date: February 3, 2009
Publisher:  Vintage
Genre: Multicultural Fiction, Literary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Summary:

A nun by the name of Sister Mary Joseph Praise is traveling from her home in India to Ethiopia when she meets a doctor named Thomas Stone.  She ends up working with him in a hospital in Ethiopia.  One day, the ever-reliable nun doesn’t turn up for her shifts as Dr. Stone’s assistant.  When they find her, they discover she is pregnant (a fact she has managed to hide from her colleagues at the hospital thus far) and about to give birth to twins.  Told from the point of view of Marion, one of the twin boys, this is an epic story of family, love, and healing.

Review:

I’ve heard a lot about how amazing Cutting for Stone is, and how it’s one of those books that I should pick up immediately.  It took me awhile, but now that I’ve finished it, I can completely understand the sentiment.  In fact, I’ve been converted.  So before I begin this review, which will completely fail to do this amazing book justice, I will say this – its reputation is well-deserved.

My summary above doesn’t even begin to cover the breadth of this astonishing novel.  So many subjects are covered here – the connection between twins, the power and responsibility of being a doctor, the elements that create a terrorist – that I can’t even begin to describe everything this book covers.  At its core, it’s about our common humanity, how we are all people just trying to get through our lives.  It’s not about the high drama of the coups and deaths, but instead, it focuses on the mundane events of daily life, and how there is so much beauty in just living.

Cutting for Stone’s setting is primarily in Ethiopia, which adds to the complexity of the story.  It’s not a book about Africa, but a novel whose setting happens to be Africa – a fine but crucial distinction.  Verghese is careful not to exploit African stereotypes or Ethiopian events in order to inject life into his novel.  His characters continue on their journeys, regardless of what is going on around them.  That’s not to say he doesn’t incorporate African elements; he definitely does, and it contributes so much to the novel as a whole.  But that’s not what it’s about.

The character development in Cutting for Stone was really impressive, especially considering that Verghese is a doctor, not a writer.  He breathes life into each and every person in this book.  Everyone has a story, even the most minor characters.  At the same time, he never overwhelms the reader with too many characters.  It is incredibly well done.

I’m sure you’re reading this review and thinking “Why a 4.75 and not a 5, with all this gushing?”  Well, there was one thing I had trouble with in Cutting for Stone.  I wouldn’t even say I disliked this detail, as removing it would take a lot from the story.  It’s a book about doctors, after all.  From Dr. Thomas Stone, to Hema, Ghosh, Marion and Shiva, these characters’ chosen profession is to help people in need and to heal them if possible.  As a result, there’s a lot of blood, a lot of graphic descriptions of surgeries and such.  Because I’m squeamish and that type of thing makes me a little nauseous, I didn’t love that aspect of the book.  At the same time, I wouldn’t change a thing about Cutting for Stone – the medical detail is necessary for the story.

Cutting for Stone is an incredibly written journey that I can’t say enough good things about.  It’s definitely a long book and takes quite the time investment, but the rewards are so great that it’s worth every second you spend with it.  I’m so glad I finally gave this novel a chance, and will be on the lookout for Verghese’s next book.

Comments

  1. I’m very glad to read your review of this book. It is the May selection for my book group. I’m only a little nervous about the length as the ladies that attend sometimes have a hard time getting through longer books. Ah well. Hope they can manage to find enough time. Again, thanks for sharing!

  2. I’m very glad to read your review of this book. It is the May selection for my book group. I’m only a little nervous about the length as the ladies that attend sometimes have a hard time getting through longer books. Ah well. Hope they can manage to find enough time. Again, thanks for sharing!

  3. This book has been on my radar for a long long time, since it first came out and I saw the review in EW. But it is long, and I keep coming up with excuses. This needs to stop! Another one that I’d been putting off was “Let the Great World Spin”, and I just finished it. I’ll be interested to see what you think…I think it is the best book I’ve read this year.

  4. This book has been on my radar for a long long time, since it first came out and I saw the review in EW. But it is long, and I keep coming up with excuses. This needs to stop! Another one that I’d been putting off was “Let the Great World Spin”, and I just finished it. I’ll be interested to see what you think…I think it is the best book I’ve read this year.

  5. I loved this book too! I didn’t find the medical details too much, but can see why some would. I think I’ve become immune to the gore by reading/watching too many crime things!

  6. I loved this book too! I didn’t find the medical details too much, but can see why some would. I think I’ve become immune to the gore by reading/watching too many crime things!

  7. I picked this one for our May book club. I really need to get started. It sounds like a powerful book.

  8. I picked this one for our May book club. I really need to get started. It sounds like a powerful book.

  9. This is one of my favorite books of all time. You have done a fine job with your lovely review. I have had the pleasure of meeting Abraham Verhese,and he is delightful. He has just begun working on something new. It is a great book for discussion.

  10. This is one of my favorite books of all time. You have done a fine job with your lovely review. I have had the pleasure of meeting Abraham Verhese,and he is delightful. He has just begun working on something new. It is a great book for discussion.

  11. As usual reading your review has added another book to my wishlist! Thanks for doing such a great job!

  12. As usual reading your review has added another book to my wishlist! Thanks for doing such a great job!

  13. This is not a book I would have chosen on my own, but after reading some glowing reviews on it, I bought it when it was released in paperback. I need to read it ASAP!

  14. This is not a book I would have chosen on my own, but after reading some glowing reviews on it, I bought it when it was released in paperback. I need to read it ASAP!

  15. I’ve been wanting to read this one for, well, forever.

  16. I’ve been wanting to read this one for, well, forever.

  17. So glad you loved this one too! I found it really hard to satisfactorily review as well.

  18. So glad you loved this one too! I found it really hard to satisfactorily review as well.

  19. I’ve had this one on my list for a while now. Maybe it’s time to pick it up…

  20. I’ve had this one on my list for a while now. Maybe it’s time to pick it up…

  21. Ahh–I want to get to this one so badly but there just is not time to start a 688 page book. Maybe over the summer!

  22. Ahh–I want to get to this one so badly but there just is not time to start a 688 page book. Maybe over the summer!

  23. I could never watch the graphic scenes, but reading them wouldn’t bother me at all. I obviously need to get to this book!

  24. I could never watch the graphic scenes, but reading them wouldn’t bother me at all. I obviously need to get to this book!

  25. What a great review! You captured the ideas of the book so well. I also felt the same way about the medical stuff and surgeries, which I found the only part of the book I had a hard time with. I really loved this book. It is totally worth the read.

  26. What a great review! You captured the ideas of the book so well. I also felt the same way about the medical stuff and surgeries, which I found the only part of the book I had a hard time with. I really loved this book. It is totally worth the read.

  27. I really liked this book. Great review.
    by the way, i have an award for you on my blog! 🙂

  28. I really liked this book. Great review.
    by the way, i have an award for you on my blog! 🙂

  29. Given this book’s length, it daunts me. I did break down and buy it for my Kindle, and I look forward to reading it soon. I’m glad to hear you loved it; I haven’t read a bad review of it yet.

  30. Given this book’s length, it daunts me. I did break down and buy it for my Kindle, and I look forward to reading it soon. I’m glad to hear you loved it; I haven’t read a bad review of it yet.

  31. This is a book that I’ve seen around and has been on my TBR list for a while. But I think your review helped it bump up on the list. Thank you for sharing it.

  32. This is a book that I’ve seen around and has been on my TBR list for a while. But I think your review helped it bump up on the list. Thank you for sharing it.

  33. I’m halfway through the book and I agree: I love it, but I’m not very good with handling blood myself so I find the very detailed descriptions of illnesses and its cures a bit hard to read at times as well.

  34. I’m halfway through the book and I agree: I love it, but I’m not very good with handling blood myself so I find the very detailed descriptions of illnesses and its cures a bit hard to read at times as well.

  35. I bought this one for my birthday after reading Marie’s glowing review over at Boston Bibliophile. It does sound like an amazing read, and I am glad that you loved it! I will have to make some time for it soon. Wonderful review!

  36. I bought this one for my birthday after reading Marie’s glowing review over at Boston Bibliophile. It does sound like an amazing read, and I am glad that you loved it! I will have to make some time for it soon. Wonderful review!

  37. I am SO glad that you loved it! This was a top read for me last year and if I didn’t have so many great books on my tbr shelf I would definitely be re-reading it now. I think you wrote a great review that really picks up a lot of what resonated for me in the book too.

  38. I am SO glad that you loved it! This was a top read for me last year and if I didn’t have so many great books on my tbr shelf I would definitely be re-reading it now. I think you wrote a great review that really picks up a lot of what resonated for me in the book too.

  39. I love to see other folks who enjoyed this book as much as I did. I was annoying everyone I know with ‘you need to read this’ while I was reading it and for months afterward.

    It did get a little detailed on the medical and surgical stuff, but I guess it didn’t bother me so much because I read many mysteries and thrillers that have some pretty gruesome stuff.

    It’s been a year since I read this, but the characters are still very much with me.

    So glad you enjoyed it too.

  40. I love to see other folks who enjoyed this book as much as I did. I was annoying everyone I know with ‘you need to read this’ while I was reading it and for months afterward.

    It did get a little detailed on the medical and surgical stuff, but I guess it didn’t bother me so much because I read many mysteries and thrillers that have some pretty gruesome stuff.

    It’s been a year since I read this, but the characters are still very much with me.

    So glad you enjoyed it too.

  41. Yay! Abraham Verghese is awesome. I waited SO VERY long for this novel after falling in love with his writing 10 years ago or so with his memoir, so it was a bit of a let down for me.

    That, and the fact that it took me forever to get into it. But I’m glad I finished it.

    He’s a master, and I’ll definitely pick up anything he writes.

  42. Yay! Abraham Verghese is awesome. I waited SO VERY long for this novel after falling in love with his writing 10 years ago or so with his memoir, so it was a bit of a let down for me.

    That, and the fact that it took me forever to get into it. But I’m glad I finished it.

    He’s a master, and I’ll definitely pick up anything he writes.

  43. I loved reading your review. I just finished this book earlier this week and was blown away. I’m glad you enjoyed it as well!

  44. I loved reading your review. I just finished this book earlier this week and was blown away. I’m glad you enjoyed it as well!

  45. This is one of those books I rushed out to buy on release day but has been sitting on my shelf since. I really need to pick it up and read it!

  46. This is one of those books I rushed out to buy on release day but has been sitting on my shelf since. I really need to pick it up and read it!

  47. I’m reading this right now on my iPad and am loving it so far. Verghese is amazing!

  48. I’m reading this right now on my iPad and am loving it so far. Verghese is amazing!

  49. I just got the book and intend to spend my weekend reading it.
    Thanks for your review.

  50. I just got the book and intend to spend my weekend reading it.
    Thanks for your review.

  51. Being a physician and absolutely loving Cutting for Stone, I was interested to see what someone who doesn’t have medical training would think of the book. I am glad that all the gore did not take too much away from your enjoyment!!

  52. Being a physician and absolutely loving Cutting for Stone, I was interested to see what someone who doesn’t have medical training would think of the book. I am glad that all the gore did not take too much away from your enjoyment!!

  53. just finished the book, simply wonderful and heart wrenching.

  54. just finished the book, simply wonderful and heart wrenching.

  55. I just found your website and I LOVE it. Excellent review on this book — I just finished it yesterday and enjoyed it so much. Keep up the incredible work on the site. 🙂

  56. I just found your website and I LOVE it. Excellent review on this book — I just finished it yesterday and enjoyed it so much. Keep up the incredible work on the site. 🙂

  57. I would have never added this book to my reading list, but after reading your review i thought i would go for it. Absolutely amazing book! Absolutely profound!A masterpiece! Like life, Verghese plays with his readers’ emotions. Ghosh brought tears to my eyes; Genet and Dr. Stone angered me; little MarionShiva entertained me; Hema inspired me. This story is so unusual, inspiring and eye opening to the anguishing trials of life that i simply cannot forget it.

  58. I would have never added this book to my reading list, but after reading your review i thought i would go for it. Absolutely amazing book! Absolutely profound!A masterpiece! Like life, Verghese plays with his readers’ emotions. Ghosh brought tears to my eyes; Genet and Dr. Stone angered me; little MarionShiva entertained me; Hema inspired me. This story is so unusual, inspiring and eye opening to the anguishing trials of life that i simply cannot forget it.

  59. I loved this book, but never really understood what was “wrong” with Shiva – autistic, Aspergers syndrome?? or Thomas Stone – what kind of out-of-body experience did he have that he doesn’t remember having sex with Sister Praise?

    kathydougherty1@gmail.com

  60. I loved this book, but never really understood what was “wrong” with Shiva – autistic, Aspergers syndrome?? or Thomas Stone – what kind of out-of-body experience did he have that he doesn’t remember having sex with Sister Praise?

    kathydougherty1@gmail.com

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