Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is an wonderful story. Wonderful doesn’t seem to do it justice. Incredible is more appropriate.
I imagined that this was going to be a good book because I read (and enjoyed!) Verghese’s two non-fiction books: The Tennis Partner (about his grief-stricken friendship with a drug addict and medical student) and My Own Country (a memoir of the four years he spent in a Tennessee town as a specialist in infectious diseases working with HIV-AIDS patients).
The writing style in Cutting for Stone is engaging and at times mesmerizing (SL). The characters are so well developed that I felt like I was actually in Ethiopia with the characters. As a Nurse, I especially appreciate the clinical details. …and there were a lot of details!
Another plus? It’s historical fiction! I’m a huge fan of historical fiction. It’s actually my favorite genre. The reason for this is that before I became a Nurse, I received a liberal arts degree. My majors were history and political science. So, I love history. And great stories. Historical fiction gives me both by putting me back into history, presenting complex issues, and piquing my curiosity…all while entertaining me (SL).
Get ready, though, Cutting for Stone is a looooooong book. This is not for the faint of heart. Faint of heart, I am not. However, navigating this read this during chemo (because my brain has all but stopped working!) was Herculean (or at least it felt that way). I’m so glad that I persisted, though, because this is a story that I needed to read.
Cutting for Stone is the story…
- of a family, a complicated and loving family beginning with the (quite traumatic) birth of the two main characters, Marion and Shiva.
- of the training for and practice of surgical medicine. The title of the book is a phrase from the Hippocratic oath, by the way.
- of Ethiopia’s genesis as an independent nation in the 1950’s and 1960’s, including political upheaval, civil war, and revolution.
- of joy and heartbreak. Life and death. Courage and fear.
One of my favorite lines in the book is when Marion describes his notion of “home” as “Not where you are from, but where you are wanted.” I wonder if this is how Abraham Verghese, an Indian, who grew up in Addis Ababa, who has lived in Madras and various cities in America feels about his life’s path.
Another favorite line is that the most important treatment of all is “that which is administered by way of the ear: words of comfort.” So, so true. In my professional experience as a nurse and in my personal experience with FBC, I could not agree more with this philosophical practice. So simple, yet so profound.
A third favorite line, pointed out by a friend, is “Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.” Wow. Wow. Wow.
I could go on and on…and on (just as the book does!), but will end with an encouragement giving a strong encouragement to read this book. It’s that good. It’s a Silver Lining.
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.