Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Twin boys are born in Ethiopia.  A normal event, but this birth was not normal.  These twins were born of a mother who was a nun, someone no one had known was pregnant.  The father was an American surgeon named Thomas Stone.  The nun, Mary Joseph Praise, was Stone's assistant in the surgery and his confidant.  They had been in love for months, but never spoke of it.  Her pregnancy, hid from everyone around, resulted in her death on the delivery table as Stone tried unsuccessfully to save her.

Stunned and shocked, Stone disappears, leaving the boys in the care of two Indian doctors, Ghosh and Hema.  Hema delivered the children after Stone's inability, and claimed the boys as her own when Stone disappeared.  She named the children Marion and Shiva.  The boys grew up in Ethiopia at Missing Hospital, surrounded by love and a close family.  In addition to Hema and Ghosh, Matron and various servants were their family.

The boys had the special relationship that twins do, but they were very different.  Shiva was extremely intelligent but had no ability to conform to rules.  School wasn't something he was interested in.  Marion was the super-striver who did everything the right way, determined to make his way in the world and make his family proud. Both boys end up with medical careers.  Marion becomes a trauma surgeon while Shiva, without a medical degree, becomes a world-renowned expert in a woman's surgery method to cure fistulas.

The boys' intense childhood bond is severed when Marion discovers a betrayal by Shiva that he cannot forgive or forget.  Due to the political situation in their homeland, Marion immigrates to America.  Years later, he discovers and is reunited with his biological father.  A medical crisis brings both branches of the family, biological and adopted together to forge new relationships and learn what they all mean to each other.

Verghese has written a sprawling, extremely satisfying novel.  The reader learns of the Ethiopian culture, as well as the medical culture of surgeons and the challenges they face.  This is hardly surprising as Verghese is a doctor as well as a novelist.  Readers will not soon forget the various faces of love that are portrayed in the novel, and will remember the characters long after they finish the book.  This book is recommended for all readers interested in an engrossing novel that will entrance and entertain.

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