Cutting for Stone

By Abraham Verghese

The Short Take:

Complex, passionate, maybe even transforming, Dr. Verghese’s first novel is a saga of love, loss, and redemption — not just for one character but for many.


As soon as I finished this book I went to Verghese’s website. I had to know just how much of this book came from his own experiences. Upon reading his bio, my appreciation for this novel grew even more. That’s not to say this is the best book ever written. But it is fascinating, informative, and very eye-opening.

The narrator, Marion, is arguably the central character, yet there are so many other tales of love, loss, and redemption intertwined with his that the transformative power of love ultimately trumps Marion’s own journey. Every major character has his or her own story and they all play a role in the creation of Marion, both child and man. Marion’s birth parents, adopted parents, his twin brother, the staff of Missing Hospital, practically every character introduced in this book adds to the depth of Cutting for Stone.

Anyone with an interest in medicine or the history of Ethiopia will find added pleasures. Though I must admit I somewhat skimmed the surgical procedures. Frankly I suspect I did myself a disservice — Verghese’s passion as a doctor shines in these segments — but I have a very low blood tolerance.

I love books that teach me something without making me feel lectured to. With this one I learned more about Ethiopia, medicine, foreign doctors coming to America, and how important it is for doctors to care for their patients beyond the medical. Of course, all this was merely incidental to the deeply personal and appealing story of Marion and his family.

A Little Plot:

Joined twin brothers — Marion and Shiva come into this world as their mother, a nun, leaves it. Distraught by the death, their physician father abandons them. Fortunately for the twins, two other doctors, Ghosh and Hema, create a loving home for them. Ghosh and Hema come from India, but they live and practice medicine in Ethiopia, at a small hospital the depends on donations from American churches.

The book traces the lives of the twins, but also the lives of both their adoptive and birth parents. In each life passion plays a prominent role, whether for another person or a profession. The book reveals each story in turn as it moves backward to India and forward to America.

If you want to know more about Cutting for Stone or Abraham Verghese (and I highly recommend it) click here.

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