The following summary is from Reading Group Guides:
An epic novel that spans continents and generations, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, compassion and redemption, exile and home that unfolds across five decades in India, Ethiopia, and America.
Narrated by Marion Stone, the story begins even before Marion and his twin brother, Shiva, are born in Addis Ababa’s Missing Hospital (a mispronunciation of “Mission Hospital”), with the illicit, years-in-the-making romance between their parents, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a beautiful Indian nun, and Thomas Stone, a brash, brilliant British surgeon. Mary and Thomas meet on a boat out of Madras in 1947; she follows him to Ethiopia and to Missing, where they work side by side for seven years as nurse and doctor. After Mary dies while giving birth to the twins --- a harrowing, traumatic scene on the operating table --- Thomas vanishes, and Marion and Shiva grow up with only a dim sense of who he was, and with a deep hostility toward him for what they see as an act of betrayal and cowardice.
The twins are raised by Hema and Ghosh, two Indian doctors who also work at Missing, and who shower Marion and Shiva with love and nurture their interest in medicine --- part of the deep, almost preternatural connection the brothers share. They are so close that Marion, as a boy, thinks of them as a single entity: ShivaMarion.
Marion and Shiva come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution, and their lives become intertwined with the nation’s politics. Addis Ababa is a colorful, cosmopolitan city: the Italians have left behind cappuccino machines, Campari umbrellas, and a vibrant expat community. But they've also left a nation crippled by poverty, hunger, and authoritarian rule: Ethiopia in the 1960s and 1970s is both bolstered and trapped by its notorious emperor, Haile Selassie, and rocked by violence and civil war.
Yet it is not politics but love that tears the brothers apart: Shiva sleeps with Genet --- the daughter of their housekeeper and the girl Marion has always loved. This second betrayal, now by the two people this sensitive young man loves most, sends Marion into a deep depression. And when Genet joins a radical political group fighting for the independence of Eritrea, Marion’s connection to her forces him into exile: he sneaks out of Ethiopia and makes his way to America.
Marion interns at a hospital in the Bronx, an underfunded, chaotic place where the patients are nearly as poor and desperate as those he had seen at Missing. It is here that Marion comes to maturity as a doctor and as a man. It is here, too, that he meets his father and takes his first steps toward reconciling with him. But when the past catches up to Marion --- nearly destroying him --- he must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him. The surprising, stunning denouement both arises from and reenacts the major themes of Cutting for Stone: love and betrayal, forgiveness and self-sacrifice, and the inextricable union of life and death.
In Cutting for Stone, renowned physician Abraham Verghese has given us a remarkable reading experience that explores the lives of a memorable cast of characters, many of them doctors; the insight the novel offers into the world of medicine, along with its wealth of precise detail about how doctors work, is unparalleled in American fiction. Verghese is so attuned to the movements of the heart and of the mind, so adept at dramatizing the great themes of human existence, and he has filled this world with such richly drawn, fascinating characters, that Cutting for Stone becomes one of those rare books one wishes would never end, an alternate reality that both rivals and illuminates the real world readers must return to when the book is closed.
About the Author:
Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP, is Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.
Born of Indian parents who were teachers in Ethiopia, he grew up near Addis Ababa and began his medical training there. When Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed, he briefly joined his parents who had moved to the United States, and worked as an orderly before returning to complete his medical education at Madras Medical College. he later retured to the U.S. for his residency as one of many foreign medical graduates. Like many other foreign medical graduates, he found only the less popular hospitals and communities open to him, an experience he described in one of his early New Yorker articles, The Cowpath to America.
From Johnson City, Tennessee, where he was a resident from 1980 to 1983, he did his fellowship at Boston University School of Medicine, working at Boston City Hospital for two years. It was here that he first saw the early signs of the HIV epidemic and later, when he returned to Johnson City as an assistant professor of medicine, he saw the second epidemic, rural AIDS, and his life took the turn for which he is most well known -- his caring for numerous AIDS patients in an era when little could be done and helping them through their early and painful deaths was often the most a physician could do.
Abraham Verghese's earlier work as an orderly, his caring for terminal AIDS patients, the insights he gained from the deep relationships he formed and the suffering he witnessed were intensely transformative; they became the basis for his first book, My Own Country : A Doctor's Story, written later during his years in El Paso, Texas. Such was his interest in writing that he decided to take some time away from medicine to study at the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1991. Since then, his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Texas Monthly, Atlantic, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Granta, Forbes.com, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.
After leaving Iowa, he became professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in El Paso, Texas, where he lived for the next 11 years. In addition to writing his first book, which was one of five chosen as Best Book of the Year by Time magazine and later made into a Mira Nair movie, he also wrote a second best-selling book, The Tennis Partner : A Story of Friendship and Loss, about his friend and tennis partner's struggle with addiction. This was a New York Times' Notable Book.
Emphasis on the Physician-Patient RelationshipAs founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, he brought the deep-seated empathy for patient suffering that had been honed by his previous experiences to his new role in the medical humanities.
He gave the new Center a guiding mission, "Imagining the Patient's Experience," to emphasize the importance of truly caring for the patient. He saw empathy as a way to preserve the innate empathy and sensitivity that brings students to medical school but which the rigors of their training frequently suppress. In San Antonio, also, he became more focused on bedside medicine, inviting small groups of medical students to accompany him on bedside rounds. Rounds gave him a way to share the value he places on the physical examination in diagnosing patients and demonstrating attentiveness to patients and their families, a vital key in the healing process.
Dr. Verghese's deep interest in bedside medicine and his reputation as a clinician, teacher and writer led to his being recruited to Stanford University in 2007 as a tenured professor.
Today, in his writing and his work, he continues to emphasize the importance of bedside medicine and physical examination in a time in medicine when the use of advanced technology frequently results in the patient in the bed having less attention than the patient data in the computer. His December 2008 article in the New England Journal of Medicine,Culture Shock: Patient as Icon, Icon as Patient, clearly lays out his viewpoint. In his book,Cutting for Stone, he also addresses the issue.
"I wanted the reader to see how entering medicine was a passionate quest, a romantic pursuit, a spiritual calling, a privileged yet hazardous undertaking. It's a view of medicine I don't think too many young people see in the West because, frankly, in the sterile hallways of modern medical-industrial complexes, where physicians and nurses are hunkered down behind computer monitors, and patients are whisked off here and there for this and that test, that side of medicine gets lost."
My Review of Cutting for Stone
I read this book for my Book Group, however, I also was able to use it towards a Reading Challenge that I was participating in for the month of February. The genre for the month was Romance. Cutting for Stone isn't really a Romance novel but it is a story of love’s many varied forms – brotherly, spousal, unrequited, sexual, parental, love of country and God.
This book is a true love story whose relationships require the utmost sacrifice. Some of the characters in the story are seeking forgiveness from those they love. One thing that is proven is that the love of true parentage is not necessarily from a blood relative but is seen from those that care for you throughout a lifetime. Cutting for Stone also definitely epitomizes the struggle for love redeemed.
I became engrossed in the story from the very beginning. It is worth the time it takes to read all 658 pages of the novel. I loved everything about the story from the characters to the descriptions of surgeries that were performed.
I think that Dr. Verghese is a great storyteller and I look forward to reading other books that he writes.
Until next time, keep curling up with a good book....