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Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone (2009)

by Abraham Verghese

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,152454497 (4.27)691
  1. 184
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (momofthreewi)
    momofthreewi: Both are rich in character development and centered around unique families.
  2. 122
    The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (paulkid)
    paulkid: Physician-fathers, twins, poor decisions.
  3. 111
    The Cider House Rules by John Irving (GoST)
    GoST: Both books relate the eventful, coming-of-age stories of physicians and their struggle to learn their craft, complete with detailed descriptions of medical procedures.
  4. 134
    I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb (JGoto)
    JGoto: Also about the ties & love/hate relationship between identical twins.
  5. 80
    Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  6. 93
    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (someproseandcons)
    someproseandcons: Both books are family and community sagas centered around secrets, and both books are carried by a strong and compelling voice.
  7. 40
    Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Iudita)
  8. 40
    The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (ddelmoni)
    ddelmoni: Exceptional characters and storyline, set in South Africa during WWII. Exceptional writing. If you liked Cutting for Stone you'll like The Power of One.
  9. 21
    Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb (Ciruelo)
    Ciruelo: Both novels have a medical focus and are set in Ethiopia. The main characters in each novel were orphaned at an early age and each spent their childhoods in a religious setting.
  10. 10
    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (laytonwoman3rd)
  11. 00
    The House of Hope and Fear: Life in a Big City Hospital by Audrey Young (ainsleytewce)
  12. 00
    The Citadel by A. J. Cronin (ainsleytewce)
  13. 22
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (Miranda_Paige)
  14. 00
    Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: This was recently featured on NPR- go to thier website for an author interview.
  15. 22
    Chang and Eng: A Novel by Darin Strauss (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Cutting for Stone portrays the life of a pair of conjoined twins separated at birth; Eng and Chang is the fictional biography of the famous original Siamese twins, who remained joined at the sternum throughout their lives. Readers interested in conjoined twins may enjoy both novels.… (more)
  16. 00
    Notes from the Hyena's Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood by Nega Mezlekia (meggyweg)

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» See also 691 mentions

English (445)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  All (454)
Showing 1-5 of 445 (next | show all)
This is an epic novel which covers so many areas of life and humanity. A story which starts in Ethiopia with the birth of twins to a nun (!). I genuinely don't want any spoilers but if that plot line doesn't attract your attention, I don't know what will. Verghese is just a superb writer who describes the joy (and heartbreak) of medicine, I think better than any living author, with a story that goes from birth to death and everything in between. It genuinely is a book that covers it all, the effects of migration, war, and love on health and death.

There are so many poignant moments in this book, which brought me to tears.

“Tell us please, what treatment in an emergency is administered by ear?"....I met his gaze and I did not blink. "Words of comfort," I said to my father.”


If I was to commend one book on a Desert Island to a medical colleague that covered the humanity of medicine, I think it would be this book. ( )
  Overdiagnosis | Oct 11, 2017 |
CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghese
Although long (perhaps a bit too long), this tale of brothers holds your attention. When an Italian nun, woefully unprepared for a mission in Africa, turns up at a medical mission in Ethiopia, she is welcomed because of her skill with patients and her ability to serve as nurse to a highly skilled but disconnected surgeon. After she gives birth unexpectantly to twin boys, the story switches to the boys, raised at the mission, and the “family” at the mission that raises them to adulthood.
World War II and the civil war that later divides Ethiopia into political factions serve as the background for this fascinating tale of medicine, natives, doctors, politicians and family. Secrets and intrigue abound and are satisfyingly brought to a conclusion as the two boys search for their birth father and fulfilling lives in the midst of great love and great upheaval.
5 of 5 stars ( )
  beckyhaase | Oct 2, 2017 |
At my friend's request (as she was the one to lend me this book), I will be reviewing Cutting for Stone. She promised this book was to be 5/5 stars. This does not mean this alters my review in any way, even when I finished it, she was very much correct.

Premed students like myself are studying all the necessary courses, Organic Chemistry, Biology, Physiology, Calculus, etc, to prepare themselves to become doctors. As a result, we're so focused on the destination, the goal, that we forget the true purpose at times. The purpose of medicine, and this is my belief, is to provide the utmost care, assisting and fulfilling a patient's needs. The patient is not a robot, who can be operated until the problem is solved. To quote this book, the treatment in an emergency that is delivered by ear is none other than "words of comfort". Yes, words of comfort and not the scalpel, are what a patient needs when it looks like all hope is lost (although we may not want to admit it).

Within the title ("thou shall not cut for stone") and the entirety of this book reveals the purpose of these words for comfort. When Sister Mary Joseph Praise dies, when Ghosh dies, when Rosina dies , on the verge of death, that is what they needed most.

The sign of a good historical fiction book is when you forget that what you're reading isn't real. It blurs the line between fiction and reality by creating such in-depth, heavily invested characters that make us wonder and occasionally Google if they existed or not. And if you're me, you take forever to read these adult works, not because they're boring (quite the opposite) but because they're chock full of details. Yes, this book may favor the medical mindset, but this doesn't mean it's entirely restricted to doctors. It isn't overly technical with medical terms, and it reads quite easily in that regard. It's more so full of detail with the history and shaping of the characters we grow attach to in the 600 pages. While Marion is the narrator for the most part, he tells the stories of all his friends and family. The narration isn't dull, rather, it's a compilation of emotions and feelings. To note: Hema grabbing the pilot's balls is a particularly funny moment. Any other mentions of sadness or hatred (Curse you Genet!) will undoubtedly be spoilers, but I will promise, there are a ton of feels to be had.

The author, Abraham Verghese, did his research. Never before was I so enriched by Ethiopian culture and even its cuisine (I did have Ethiopian food a few days after reading this!). This is why I love historical fiction so much. Without authors telling stories of places and times biased history books (as history is only written by the victors), we would have no knowledge.

Can I say anything else before I descend into tl;dr territory? The ending will bring tears, and indeed brings the book full circle. In the beginning, I was thinking it would be another The Kite Runner in terms of brotherhood and redemption, and I dislike comparing the two, because in the end, they were so, so different. Yes, there's understanding and sacrifice, and both are great books. But Cutting for Stone differentiates as the book starts and ends the same, with a perfect union, not a separation. Perhaps one could say that this union symbolized science and empathy under the field that is medicine. One cannot exist without the other.

I normally don't do reviews as existential or wordy as this, but this book has my complete 5/5 stars, and I leave with a deeper knowledge of the field I am to enter. ( )
  raisinetta | Sep 25, 2017 |
Recommended by Craig- it's an excellent novel regarding a doctor in Ethiopia in the 1950's. Many twists and turns. Excellent character development. Many graphic details regarding medicine and surgery. ( )
  camplakejewel | Sep 18, 2017 |
I almost gave up on Cutting For Stone. The beginning of this long novel had too many detailed descriptions of medical procedures and seemed to spend more time than necessary on the back stories of some of the characters. But once the twins were born, it became a great read. It is a story about growing up and surviving in Ethiopia during a time when the country was suffering from fighting among power hungry, ruthless leaders. There is a lot of information about the wretched conditions in Addis Ababa, which is fascinating, especially when set in a hospital. But this is also a story of love and ambition in many different forms. The mixture of politics and human emotion reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

Steve Lindahl – author of Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul ( )
  SteveLindahl | Aug 8, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Abraham Vergheseprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bull, R.Map artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gall, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hellier, GavinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malhotra, SunilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tan, VirginiaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And because I love this life
I know I shall love death as well
The child cries out when
From the right breast the mother
Takes it away, in the very next moment
To find in the left one
Its consolation.
-- Rabindranath Tagore,
from Gitanjuli
For George and Mariam Verghese Scribere jussit amor
First words
Prologue: After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother's womb, my brother Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.
Chapter 1: Sister Mary Joseph Praise had come to Missing Hospital from India, seven years before our birth.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Twin brothers Marion and Shiva Stone come of age in Ethiopia, sharing a deep bond that has helped them survive the loss of their parents and the country's political upheaval, but when they both fall for the same woman, their bond is broken and the two go their separate ways, until a medical crisis reunites them.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375714367, Paperback)

Amazon Exclusive: John Irving Reviews Cutting for Stone

John Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times--winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. In 1992, Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules--a film with seven Academy Award nominations. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Cutting for Stone:

That Abraham Verghese is a doctor and a writer is already established; the miracle of this novel is how organically the two are entwined. I’ve not read a novel wherein medicine, the practice of it, is made as germane to the storytelling process, to the overall narrative, as the author manages to make it happen here. The medical detail is stunning, but it never overwhelms the humane and narrative aspects of this moving and ambitious novel. This is a first-person narration where the first-person voice appears to disappear, but never entirely; only in the beginning are we aware that the voice addressing us is speaking from the womb! And what terrific characters--even the most minor players are given a full history. There is also a sense of great foreboding; by the midpoint of the story, one dreads what will further befall these characters. The foreshadowing is present in the chapter titles, too--‘The School of Suffering’ not least among them! Cutting for Stone is a remarkable achievement.--John Irving

(Photo © Maki Galimberti)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:49 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Twin brothers born from a secret love affair between an Indian nun and a British surgeon in Addis Ababa, Marion and Shiva Stone come of age in Ethiopia, where their love for the same woman drives them apart.

» see all 10 descriptions

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