Cutting For Stone
By Abraham Verghese
This novel takes the idea of being ambitious to a whole new level. I don’t mean the characters are driven by ambition in a new and special way (although that could certainly be said) but rather that author Abraham Verghese attempts to tell several stories in one novel.
There are multiple love stories that interweave, there is the core story of the lives of twins Shiva and Marion, there is the historical story of emperors, coups, and political strife in Ethiopia, there are medical journeys through time, there is the tale of parental struggle, and there is the universal story of love lost and found.
No wonder the book is 658 pages.
I think Verghese does a marvelous job in telling each of these stories, in giving each tale the breath and weight it deserved, in weaving them all together in an unforgettable tapestry.
If at times the story seems to take its dear sweet time to get where we hope and dread it s going, well, that is probably intentional. That is part of growing up. That is part of medical advances. That is part of life.
Verghese does a marvelous job of creating characters who are distinct yet shockingly familiar. The traits that make us love Hema and Ghosh, that make us cheer Marion on and wonder about Shiva’s moral compass are artfully portrayed. The characters become real in a very tangible way, flaws and disappointments intact.
Cutting For Stone tells the story of the complex tragic love of an Indian nun and a troubled British doctor. From their union comes the twins who are raised by surrogate parents. Told from the point of view of the first born twin Marion, the novel moves back and forth in time showing us how the small choices of generations before can impact our lives and the lives of others in the future. Set in Ethiopia but spanning India, Africa, and America, the story unfolds and then unfolds again. There are layers here.. layers of beauty, layers of connection, layers of betrayal, layers of love.
With surgical precision Abraham Verghese has found a way to tell a beautiful and haunting story.
This book is well worth the invested time and the occasional slump in plot momentum, and I highly recommend it.