Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This is an emotionally riveting book; an epic tale, brilliantly written and deeply affecting.  Weaving together the threads of numerous storylines into a beautiful tapestry of history and landscape, love, betrayal, and forgiveness, and brimming with wisdom about the human condition.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa.  Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance they come of age in Ethiopia which is on the brink of revolution.  Their passion for the same woman  will tear them apart and force Marion to flee his homeland and take refuge as an intern in an overcrowded New York City hospital.  Then the past catches up to him, nearly destroying him. 

The title "Cutting for Stone" refers to a line from the Hippocratic Oath that stems from a time when kidney and bladder stones were epidemic (and deadly).  There were some surgeons who could cut for stone, but then they'd wipe their blades on their pants and head off to the next village.  It was extremely dangerous (because of infections).  The phrase implies, "Leave that for people who know what they're doing."

Loss is a theme that runs strongly through the book.  The language used is beautiful.  An imaginative and luminous masterpiece.

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