Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, Reprint 2010, 668 pages
The story is a riveting saga of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva Stone, born of a tragic union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance, and bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.But it's love, not politics -- their passion for the same woman -- that will tear them apart and force Marion to flee his homeland and make his way to America, finding refuge in his work at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him, wreaking havoc and destruction, Marion has to entrust his life to the two men he has trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.
A breathtaking tale about love, abandonment, betrayal and redemption. This book spans 60 years and takes you on a journey to India, Ethiopia, New York, Boston, Yemen to name just a few. It was an ethnically interesting mix of Indians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, British and Americans and although we travel to many different areas, the story begins and ends in Ethiopia.
The tale is told by Marion Stone who is the twin brother to Shiva, son to Sister Mary Joseph Praise and Thomas Stone. The story starts in 1947 when Sister Mary Joseph Praise (an Indian nun) sets sail from India to Yemen. This perilous journey results in death, sickness and the development of a strong bond between the Sister who is a Nurse and a British surgeon, Thomas Stone.
Sister Mary Joseph Praise gives birth to twins 7 years after reaching Addis Ababa - "Missing" Hospital where she works closely with Dr. Stone. She has complications and dies in childbirth and the distraught Thomas Stone flees Addis Ababa abandoning his sons. Luckily for Marion and Shiva (the twins) two Indian doctors at the hospital (Hema and Ghosh) take them and raise them as their own children. They are a very loving couple and the twins flourish under their care. Marion and Shiva both spend a lot of time at the hospital and develop a passion for medicine.
It certainly made for an interesting book discussion for book club this month.
We discussed things which we thought were "missing" from the characters, how they overcame it and at the end, what each of them "found". It was a good way to think about things as "Missing Hospital" may have just been aptly named after all although "Missing" had been a clerical error (supposed to have been named "Mission Hospital").
There is a great deal of medical procedures which take place in this book and feel that Verghese does a good job keeping the reader engaged even through the sometimes long, technically detailed accounts which are a bit daunting. The book was an education in and of itself as there was medical terminology and procedures I was not familiar with and feel like I have learned something after reading and researching various things in this book.
Further on in the book you are given Thomas Stone's backstory which I found to be especially interesting as it really helped explain and to understand why he behaved the way he did. At the time when he was doing things, I just could not understand for example why he did not perform a caesarian on Sister Mary Joseph Praise which would have saved her life.
The book flows seemlessly and really enjoyed the way everything was inter-weaved and came together. The characters were beautifully crafted and Verghese gave us an inside view of the human condition including strengths and flaws, sins and salvation, love and hate.
A truly remarkable book.
Rating 4 out of 5