Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese

December seemed to fly by with the usual Christmas activities and excitement resulting in me not having to time to blog at all. Thankfully my lack of blogging is not an indicator of how much reading I managed throughout November/December so a quick summary now of my last books of 2016 will bring me up to date and ready for a whole new year of reading and reviewing!

I probably started Cutting for Stone in early November and it did seem to take a while to read. It’s fairly dense at 541 pages of small type so does take a lot of reading however I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it. It tells the story of Marion and his twin brother Shiva born in Missing Hospital in Ethiopia in 1954 to sister Mary Joseph Praise, a nurse from India working in Missing hospital at the time. Everything about their birth is shocking, no one knew she was pregnant, least of all the boys father, the birth was difficult and sadly Sister Mary Praise did not survive. Their father unable to deal with his new found fatherhood and the death of the woman he loved disappears the same night. In many ways the absence of both these characters defines the boys story yet for us readers they are never truly absent as we learn more about them and the lives they led before the twins birth. Marion narrates the story, which is essentially the story of his own life told through his own perspective. For him it is a making sense of the life he has led and the events that caused him to become distant from his twin and best friend Shiva, to leave his homeland and live in America and to eventually return to Africa. Spanning the 50 years of his own life but also telling the stories of others that lived before his life began it is packed full of details that breathe life into this book and combined with his own personal narrative and descriptions of the setting results in a beautiful rich read that it is very easy to become completely immersed in. Set in the Missing hospital and later in hospitals in America, surgery and medicine are a big part of the story and there are many fascinating  anecdotes and stories that add to the glorious richness of the book. Similarly the descriptions of Ethiopia and the changing political climate make this book far more than a book about family and relationships. This book is as good as it is because of its setting and the attention to detail in all of the characters stories not just in the main story of Marion and Shiva. The writing is excellent drawing the reader in quickly and taking us into the heart of these people’s lives. It is hard to sum up exactly what this book is but in short it is warm, funny, sad, exciting, interesting and thoughtful, full of characters who seem as real as the people you live with and descriptions of place that brings a new environment into your own life. Everything a good read should be. I loved it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

 

 

 

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