August 9, 2011

Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese

I can't decide if I liked this book or not. When I was reading it, I was totally engrossed in the story; and yet I could put it down for days (or weeks) on end with no compulsion to continue the story.

I am a sucker for books set in Africa; and this book, set in a mission hospital in Ethiopia held a special appeal to me since I worked at a mission hospital in Tanzania from 2003-2006. I loved how he captured the atmosphere of an African mission hospital - I found myself right back at Ndolage at times while reading the first part of this book. There were just a few minor errors that stood out, and were made even more obvious by the overall accuracy of the details (e.g. a British surgeon called Dr. Stone, while in the British system, Dr. so-and-so refers to a physician while surgeons are referred to as Mr. so-and-so). But the descriptions of the patients waiting to be seen, and the families present at the hospital, and the logic (or lack there-of), and the pandering to donors, and the frustration and desperation and joys in different circumstances all rang so true.

The story would probably be considered epic in nature (and in my opinion, maybe just a bit too far reaching?). A British surgeon and an Indian nun in Ethiopia fall in love. Twins are born to the nun who dies and the surgeon disappears. The twins are raised by two other doctors at the hospital. One twin becomes a local specialist on fistulas, while the other twin goes to med school and eventually has to flee the country due to a misunderstanding in the civil war. That twin ends up in America where his past eventually catches up to him; and he learns more about his origins and ancestors.

Like I said, when I picked up this book, I could read it for hours on end with the impression of barely any time passing at all; and yet I could also put it down for weeks on end without picking it up again. But overall, my impression of this book is a positive one. The characters were well rounded and 3-dimensional; the story was interesting; and the setting was well described. I'd love to visit Ethiopia some day!


Wanda said...

I've had my eye on this one for awhile. After reading your review, I think I'd still like to get around to it at some point, no rush though.

Kate said...

Wanda - I agree. It was a good read, but no need to rush out and get a copy yesterday!

TheGirlWithTheNotepad said...

Will give it a read. Great blog, by the way!

Kate said...

TheGirlWithTheNotepad - thanks!

Italia said...

I read seven pages of this book before I rushed out and purchased three more for gifts. My sister also read this book. A story unlike any other I have every read, it is entertaining and yet very intellectual. The author paints a picture of Addis Ababa and Asmara, where most of the book takes place - the colors and smells of Africa, its culture, history, become vivid and alive, all the while teaching the reader of medical practices, surgery and those who have served there. In the end, it is about forgiveness and redemption, which only begs the reader to read it again. I have recommended this book to my friends.