Home > Abraham Verghese, Re-readable > #5. Cutting for Stone

#5. Cutting for Stone

I haven’t written here in a while. Forgive me. There have been books, mostly short story collections, but these are difficult to write about—which stories should I highlight?—have I the patience to fairly assess twelve or more short stories read over a protracted period of time? It is far easier to write reviews of novels—I return today with this in mind.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is an excellent read. Set first in Addis Ababa, moving briefly to New York City, and then back again to Addis Ababa, it tells the story of two identical twin brothers born to a beautiful Indian nun and a socially awkward British surgeon.

Perhaps after reading that last statement you are preparing to dismiss the book. Too melodramatic, you are starting to say. I do not blame you, the thought did occur to me in the beginning; but there are several reasons to persist. In the first place, it is impossible to miss the authority in the narrator’s voice. He is a doctor (as is Verghese) and he speaks of medical conditions and medical procedures (describes whole surgeries!) with a loving fascination that translates easily to the reader. You may have no idea what he is talking about when he introduces one medical term or the other, but so patient, so vivid and graceful are his descriptions that you find yourself listening (enthralled!) and learning something new.

Even better, Verghese sets the stage for his story appropriately; everywhere, worked into the overarching themes of love, spirituality, betrayal, and intrigue, are juicy tidbits about Ethiopia–her history, her beliefs, her politics, her people, their music, their food. If you are anything like me, you will be delighted by every fresh bit of information that Verghese slips casually into the narrative.

Verghese’s voice is powerful, distinctive. I was irritated at first, by its unfamiliarity and the way that it wheedled its way–easily–into my mind. But I had forgotten this within a few pages, and was reading the book actively, loath to put it down.

For wonderful, wonderful readability, an excellent job at blending fact and fiction, and the presence of real, memorable characters, I award this book four stars. I will be looking out for more of Verghese’s work.

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