Sunday, April 25, 2010

BOOK: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, 688 pages

A - Zed Challenge; 20-10 Challenge: set in Africa

Most reviews of this book have readers gushing, raving, and putting this on their 'best read of the year' list. I liked this book, quite a bit, but it won't make my best read of the year. I feel like I have to explain why I didn't love it that much, which makes it seem like I am only mentioning things I didn't like, when in fact, I found it an engrossing, epic novel. It's a solid 4/5 reading experience.

(Nit-picking problems:
I could never get a sense of where the story was going. It was epic, covering the life of the narrator with back stories on his parents, biological and real-life, and most other characters as well. But every time we went back in time, I lost the focus of where this was headed.

The narrator, Marion Stone, seemed too perfect. I would have rather had the story narrated by his twin brother, Shiva, who seemed more of a character. However, he didn't seem to care much about anyone else, so I guess his narration would have been as one-sided. For example, Marion saved himself for the girl he loved, explaining that his love was so true. He was too sensitive to hurt people's feelings, he did everything he was supposed to. Marion couldn't lie to protect the family during a particular crisis - don't worry, Shiva has no such compunction.

The medical details were far too detailed. I don't need to know the sub-clava vein thingy and the minuscule thing attached to it when operating for some obscure rare surgery. Lots of surgery and blood. I was impressed with Dr Verghese knowledge, but it could have been edited. And at least five major characters were surgeons so every character had a surgery described.)

The story, of conjoined twins born of a doctor and a nun, both immigrants to Ethiopia, with a secret love was a great concept. I really liked the Ethiopian setting, and learning about the history and culture of Ethiopia, especially the historical relationship with Ethiopia and Italy. The family relationships - parent/child, siblings, within the Missing Hospital were realistic and moving, especially Ghosh who was a wonderfully loving adoptive father and husband. It's a big book that didn't feel big except in scope.

thanks to RandomHouse Canada for the review copy

also reviewed by:
jackie at farmlanebooks
suzi at suziqoregon
nicola at back to books
chris at bookarama