Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
- Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375414495
- ISBN-13: 978-0375414497
First of all, sorry for the long absence. Things have been pretty chaotic the past few weeks so whilst I've been able to do some reading, I haven't had the chance to write about the books that I've read these past weeks. I chose to write about Cutting for Stone simply because it was a book that completely blew me away. Described by many as 'fiction at its best' I had expectations for the book, but suffice to say, my experience reading it was beyond any expectations.
If I were asked to choose a book that has had a profound impact on my life thus far, I would have to say that for now, Abraham Verghese's 'Cutting for Stone' tops the list. The story circles around conjoined twins, Marian and Shiva Praise Stone who are conjoined at the head, but separated at birth. If being conjoined and separated at birth under medical conditions in Ethopia that are far from being ideal isn't enough, Marion and Shiva are the sons of famous British surgeon Thomas Stone and a nun, Sister Mary Joseph Praise.
The plot is thick with an aura of mystery and mystic, not only from the twins mysterious conception and birth, but the fact that the story is set in Ethiopia lends an air of surreality to this epic book. Narrated from Marion Stone's point of view, the book has an extensive timeline, starting from the meeting of his parents, right till the time Marion returns to Ethiopia after a stint as a successful surgeon in Boston.
Although identical, Shiva and Marion are worlds apart when it comes to character, interests and outlook in life. The twins are raised by Indian doctors, Ghosh and Hema, who stand in as great parents after the death of their mother and abandonment of their father. Rich in setting, and suspenseful in plot, this is a story that's not only a joy to read, but it also highlights the challenges and selflessness of doctors and humanitarians who sacrifice time, effort and emotions to minister to the needs of the people of Africa. I found it particularly heart wrenching reading about the suppression of women, and genital mutilation that's so rampant in certain parts of Africa and amongst certain tribes. When all these are coupled together with the practice of child brides and the mental and emotional torment that these women go through is spoken so clearly through the author's writing.
I especially enjoy the way Verghese describes emotions :
"You are so brave." This was my consolation : all was well between me and Rosina.
If this was what brave felt like - numb, dumb, with eyes that could see no farther than my bloody fingers, and a heart that raced and pined for the girl that hugged me - then I suppose I was brave.
At times, he writes in a way that is so lyrical it hits me as simultaneously stupefying and beautiful.
The observer, that old record keeper, the chronicler of events made his appearance in that taxi. The hands of my clock turned elastic while I imprinted these feelings in memory. You must remember this. That was all I had, all I've ever had, the only currency, the only prove that I was alive.
A book that's based on part fact and most parts fiction, this reads smoothly and is enjoyably engaging. What I love besides the intricate and well thought out plot is the attention to detail and the beautifully crafted language that's used throughout the book. Abraham Verghese is a doctor by profession, but he is also a great writer and has been compared to the likes of literary heroes such as Shakespeare.