Cutting for Stone

By Abraham Verghese; Sunil Malhotra (Read by)
(Random House Audio, Compact Disc, 9780739382851)

Publication Date: February 3, 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Paperback, Hardcover, Paperback, Paperback

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“This sumptuous tale is one of lives, fates, and destinies, how things separate are connected and how those connected are separate. Birth and death are at the outset - and then, pulsingly, heartfully, carry on companionably all the way through. Lifelong wonderings and longings bridge the geography and time spanned. This is like one of the great life-and-death, myth-and-legend sagas with war, famine, exile, love, betrayal, great tenderness and compassion, a cast of characters, and the work of some larger powers all going on.”
-- Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA


Description

A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel–an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics–their passion for the same woman–that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him–nearly destroying him–Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.




About the Author

Abraham Verghese is also the author of The Tennis Partner, a New York Times Notable Book, and My Own Country, a National Book Critics Circle finalist. Currently a professor of internal medicine at Stanford University, he has also served on faculties in Iowa, Texas, and Tennessee. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, his fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and Granta. He lives in Palo Alto, California.




NPR
Sunday, Jul 10, 2011

We're visiting bookstores around the country this month to find out what people are picking for their summer reads. Guest host Linda Wertheimer talks with Francoise Paheau, owner of Garcia Street Books, about what her customers are reading this summer. More at NPR.org

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NPR
Thursday, Apr 7, 2011

As a culmination of our March NPR Book Club reading of Cutting for Stone, we spoke to author Abraham Verghese, a doctor and writer, about his bestselling novel. More at NPR.org

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Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. Abraham Verghese has said that his ambition in writing Cutting for Stone was to "tell a great story, an old-fashioned, truth-telling story." In what ways is Cutting for Stone an old-fashioned story-and what does it share with the great novels of the nineteenth century? What essential human truths does it convey?




Praise For Cutting for Stone

“Abraham Verghese is a doctor, an accomplished memoirist and, as he proves in Cutting for Stone, something of a magician as a novelist. This sprawling, 50-year epic begins with a touch of alchemy: the birth of conjoined twins to an Indian nun in an Ethiopian hospital in 1954. The likely father, a British surgeon, flees upon the mother’s death, and the (now separated) baby boys are adopted by a loving Indian couple who run the hospital. Filled with mystical scenes and deeply felt characters–and opening a fascinating window onto the Third World–Cutting for Stone is an underdog and a winner. Shades of Slumdog Millionaire.

–Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today

“A novel set in Africa bears a heavy burden. The author must bring the continent home to help the reader sit in a chair and imagine vast, ancient, sorrowful, beautiful Africa. In the last decade I’ve read books narrated by characters homesick for Africa; books by or about child soldiers; books about politics; books full of splintering history. Cutting for Stone is the first straightforward novel set in and largely about Africa that I’ve read in a good long time–the kind Richard Russo or Cormac McCarthy might write, the kind that shows how history and landscape and accidents of birth and death conspire to create the story of a single life. Perhaps it is because the narrator is a doctor that you know there will be pain, healing, distance, perspective and a phoenix rising from the ashes of human error. Marion Stone reconstructs his half-century with a child’s wonder . . . Verghese knows that beauty is the best way to draw us in . . . The landscape and the characters who live and work [at Missing Hospital] create something greater than a community, more like an organism. The intimacy of the twins . . . the ghostly purity of their mother and the daily rhythms of the hospital create an inhabitable, safe place, on and off the page. In lesser hands, melodrama would be irresistible . . . but Verghese has created characters with integrity that will not be shattered by any event. . . . Verghese makes the point in his gentle way that violence begets violence; that fanaticism is born from pain. . . . Cutting for Stone owes its goodness to something greater than plot. It would not be possible to give away the story by simply telling you what happens. Verghese creates this story so lovingly that it is actually possible to live within it for the brief time one spends with this book. You may never leave the chair. . . Lush and exotic . . . richly written.”

–Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

“Any doubts you might harbor about a 534-page first novel by a physician in his 50s will be allayed in the first few pages of this marvelous book. Abraham Verghese has written two graceful memoirs, but Cutting for Stone, his wildly imaginative fictional debut, is looser, bigger, even better. The narrative begins as a nun of staff at a charity hospital in Ethiopia dies giving birth to twin boys. No one on staff had known she was pregnant, least of all her surgeon lover, who promptly decamps. Just when you think you’re holding a grim epic of abandonment, Verghese changes keys, launching a buoyant tale of family happiness. [The] newborns are adopted by Hema, the hospital’s gynecologist, and her physician husband Ghosh. Introduced as a cheerful buffoon, Ghosh emerges as Verghese’s most achingly soulful creation, man as wise as he is tender. Verghese has the rare gift of showing his characters in different lights as the story evolves, from tragedy to comedy to melodrama, with an ending that is part Dickens, part Grey’s Anatomy. The novel works as a family saga, but it is also something more, a lovely ode to the medical profession. Verghese can write about the repair of a twisted bowel with the precision and poetry usually reserved for love scenes. The doctor in him sees the luminous beauty of the physician’s calling; the artist recognizes that there remain wounds no surgeon can men. ‘Where silk and steel fail, story must succeed,’ Marion muses. This one does.”

–Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly; Grade: A

“An epic tale about love, abandonment, betrayal and redemption, Verghese’s first novel is a masterpiece of traditional storytelling. Not a word is wasted in this larger-than-life saga that spans three countries and six decades. . . . So adept at keeping his readers engaged, Verghese (a doctor himself, as well as a professor at Stanford) is able to relate technically detailed accounts of medical procedures without ever slowing the pace of the narrative. Detail, in fact, is Verghese’s forte. Every character has a history–and Verghese expertly weaves the threads of numerous story lines into one cohesive opus. The writing is graceful, the characters compassionate and the story full of nuggets of wisdom. Verghese’s august talent for storytelling is apparent in the dramatic arc of every chapter, but it is his handling of the human condition, of sins and salvation, of flaws and forgiveness, that makes this work particularly moving. From [Marion and Shiva Stone’s] dramatic upbringing in a politically unstable nation to their heartbreaks and humiliations, Verghese’s prose is teeming with memorable dialogue and description. Marion’s arrival in New York City captures the wonderment of an immigrant . . . Although Verghese’s nonfiction works exemplify the sensitivity and awareness evident in Cutting for Stone, neither achieves the depth or breadth of this fictional tour de force. With all the traits of a great 19th century novel–a personal and intense narrative with coincidences and an unexpected denouement–Cutting for Stone is destined for success.”

–Meghan Ward, San Francisco Chronicle

“Blood is thicker than water, and more copious, in this expansive novel about identical twin boys born in Addis Ababa in 1954 and instantly orphaned–their mother dies, their father flees. Raised by doctors at the hospital, Shiva and Marion soon begin practicing medicine themselves, but their lives unhappily diverge. The twins have a telepathic connection, and Marion, the narrator, believes he can recall their relationship in the womb. Verghese, a doctor, has an affinity for unstinting detail and unscientific intuition. The exhaustive gore of the medical procedures is matched by a poetic perception of the outside world–arriving in New York, Marion misses the cacophony of Addis Ababa’s roads, observing that in America ‘the cars were near silent, like a school of fish.’ Verghese bends history and coincidence to his narrative needs–characters cross paths when they should and find the information they seek–creating a story much like the human bodies Marion painstakingly describes: beautiful [and] amazing.”

The New Yorker

“Masterful . . . Verghese’s gripping narrative moves over decades and generations from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York, describing the cultural and spiritual pull of these places. . . . Even with its many stories and layers, Cutting for Stone remains clear and concise. Verghese paints a vivid picture of these settings, the practice of medicine (he is also a physician) and the characters’ inner conflicts. I felt as though I were with these people, eating dinner with them even, feeling the hot spongy injera on my fingers as they dipped it into a spicy wot. In The Interior Castle, Saint Teresa’s work on mystical theology, she wrote, ‘I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions.’ Cutting for Stone shines like that place.”

–W. Ralph Eubanks, The Washington Post Book World

“Stupendous . . . The best novel to come along so far this year. [Cutting for Stone] doesn’t really belong to any familiar genre. Rather, it has invented its own: the epic medical romance, surgery meets history. [Verghese is] an original talent; a writing that can deliver with both pen and scalpel. . . . Verghese’s eye is acutely diagnostic. Like Tolstoy (the comparison is not completely far-fetched), he spots the symptomatic, involuntary tics and twitches of body language and nails something bigger: the rough force of politics with which the twins Shiva and Marion . . . have to deal as they grow to maturity in embattled Ethiopia. . . . In War and Peace, the field hospital was a place of last resort for Tolstoy’s antagonists to discover the point of the life from which they are about to exit. For Verghese, the hospital is the world itself, laid out in a state of extreme emotional exposure–for Cutting for Stone is also, at its core, a story of erotic upheavals and familial betrayals. Its action takes place within the arc of the two terrifying procedures that form its beginning and end, and in this sense it reaches for the ambitions of Greek tragedy. . . . Beautiful and deeply affecting.”

–Simon Schama, Financial Times

“Three and a half stars. Conjoined twins, Shiva and Marion Stone are separated by the doctor whose Caesarean fails to save their mother. Raised near the Ethiopian hospital where they were born, the brothers lock into a struggle that mirrors the country’s political tension: Their family is touched by murder, a coup, betrayal. Verghese plays straight to the heart in his first novel, which will keep you in its thrall.”

–Michelle Green, People

“Engrossing . . . Endearing . . . A passionate, vivid, and informative novel . . . [Verghese] paints a colorful, fact-filled, and loving portrait . . . Verghese is at his best describing the landscape, the genial wisdom of the man who raises [twin brothers Marion and Shiva], the political upheavals that rupture the land he loves, and . . . the medical and surgical challenges that confront this family of doctors. . . . Cutting for Stone is worth reading. Verghese is clearly a compassionate man in love with words and the subject matter to which he applies them.”

–Julie Wittes Schlack, The Boston Globe

“[An] astonishing, breath-taking and heartrending human epic about two little boys who become enamored of medicine, but whose paths violently diverge . . . A perfectly pitched, endlessly rewarding symphony of a debut novel. If you have time to read only one novel this year, make it this one.”

–Sheila Anne Feeney, Newark Star-Ledger

“Absorbing, exhilarating . . . Rich . . . Worthy of ‘Once-upon-a-time’ status. . . . If you’re hungry for an epic that begins in 1940s Madras, sails through a typhoid outbreak, stumbles through a sordid khat den in Yemen, lingers in a plucky mission clinic in Addis Ababa and climaxes in a gritty New York City hospital before alighting, for a mystical moment, in a small Italian chapel graced by Bernini’s sculpture of St. Teresa, then open the covers of Cutting for Stone, [then] don’t expect to do much else. . . . [Verghese] skillfully captures the tensions and insights triggered by cultural crosscurrents. [He] details with equal adroitness the thrashing of 10,000 Italian soldiers by barefoot Ethiopian fighters in 1896; the patois of frankincense-scented brothels; a vasectomy performed with the aid of space heater and Johnnie Walker Red–the description of the latter so charming and surgically precise, it could serve, in a pinch, as how-to manual. Verghese’s love of medicine is palpable. He’s equally passionate about narrative. . . . He sprinkles medical nuggets throughout his novel to reveal the raw complexity of life . . . His intimate depiction of humanity makes your pulse race, your eyes tear, and your lungs exhale a satisfied sigh.”

–Paula Bock, The Seattle Times

“Compelling . . . A story [that] refuses to let go of the readers. . . . Cutting for Stone [is] a coming-of-age novel. But it’s also a novel about doctors and nurses living amid the rich contradictions of Ethiopia. Then again, it’s a novel about the making of a surgeon, an expatriate who leaves Ethiopia to learn the art in a not-so-nice neighborhood in the Bronx. On another level, it’s a surgical thriller. Finally, Cutting for Stone is a novel of character–of a family held together by love and split by betrayal. . . . Readers will put this novel down at book’s end knowing that it will stick with them for a long time to come. . . . Unlike many doctors, Verghese can write. . . . And, unlike so many doctors, Verghese (or at least the surgeon in this novel, his first) insists on seeing patients as humans. . . . Somehow, even using the jargon that surgeons use, Verghese makes the process clear to readers. So, read it for the medical education. Or for the characters. Or for the action, or for the dynamics of an unhappy family. But do yourself a favor. Read it.”

–Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Gripping . . . Admirably accessible, Verghese takes every opportunity to make the language of medicine fascinating to the outsider. . . . His novel has more in common with the large, ambitious, action-packed novels of the 19th century than with any more recent models. References to George Eliot’s Middlemarch are layered into the book, perhaps as an indicator of the kind of sweeping social novel Verghese is attempting. What’s most memorable about Cutting for Stone is Verghese’s compassionate authorial generosity toward his characters, particularly in his medical scenes. Verghese’s doctors never forget that they are operating on human beings. . . . Refreshing.”

–Laura C. J. Owen, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Epic/intimate storytelling in the tradition of Forster, Conrad, Dinesen, Maugham, Naipaul. . . . All signs point in the affirmative that Verghese has succeeded in his ambition to write ‘the great medical novel.’”

–Steve Bennett, San Antonio Express-News

“The novel is full of compassion and wise vision. . . . I feel I changed forever after reading this book, as if an entire universe had been illuminated for me. It’s an astonishing accomplishment to make such a foreign world familiar to a reader by the book’s end.”

–Sandra Cisneros, San Antonio Express-News

“Dr. Marion Praise Stone, the narrator of Cutting for Stone, [holds] his audience spellbound. Call him a little miracle, a fictional character so richly imagined and situated that neither he nor the book he lives in will ever be forgotten. Verghese’s first novel is a whopper, illuminating the magic and the tragedy of our lives, brimming with wisdom about the human condition. Such fun to read, too–with a huge cast, a sweeping multi-continental plot arc, a zillion lovely moments along the way: sharp descriptions, recurrent jokes, cultural observations and medical asides both witty and profound. (Wait till you get to the vasectomy.) In charting the destiny of this family–twins born attached at the head, adoptive parents whose devotion is a force of nature, biological parents whose absence is a wound, a servant’s daughter who becomes a semi-sibling, Verghese tells the brightest and darkest truths of what it means to be connected to another human. . . In Cutting for Stone, we get all we were promised and then some. Verghese’s previous two books established [him] as a gifted memoirist, a devoted doctor whose skillful storytelling transformed sad stories into fine reading. Yet these books gave no hint of the incredible imaginative power found in this first novel, a power that recalls contemporary fabulists like Salman Rushdie and John Irving. Like Rushdie, Verghese takes us wholly away to a foreign place, culture and history. Like John Irving, he invents characters whose eccentricities are both mythic and adorable. To these achievements, Verghese adds his ability to dramatize matters of biology, medicine and surgery, allowing him to get to the heart, the brain, [and] the liver as few other writers can.”

–Marion Winik, Newsday

“At its best, the first novel from physician Verghese displays the virtues so evident in his bestselling and much-lauded memoirs. He has a knack for well-structured scenes, a passion for medicine and a gift for communicating that passion. He gives readers clear, sensory and intricately detailed description, and he uncovers the unexpected significance of mundane actions and objects. Cutting for Stone is the saga of Marion Stone, son a brilliant, though psychologically damaged British surgeon and a nun who dies giving birth to Marion and his twin, Shiva. Drawn to a life in medicine, Marion narrates a childhood full of incident and atmosphere, culminating in his estrangement from Shiva and his eventual escape from Addis during the 1960s struggle for Eritrean independence. After a harrowing journey, he finds a second home as a surgical resident at a cash-strapped hospital in [America].”

–John Repp, Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“After two highly successful nonfiction books, Verghese has written an enthralling debut novel set largely in Ethiopia, the country where he grew up. Verghese creates a saga grand enough for the movies, yet sensitive in its explorations of character, purpose and place. Cutting for Stone tells the story of twin boys born to an Indian nun mother and a British surgeon father. The mother dies in childbirth and the father leaves the country, abandoning the twin boys, Marion and Shiva Stone. They grow up in the household of two dedicated physicians, [and] Verghese creates in the adoptive parents, Hema and Ghosh, marvelous characters that readers come to know well. Ghosh may be the book’s best creation. His robust affection for life fills the page, even as he deals day to day with death. Ghosh sees his patients as people, not just problems to be solved. Marion, the twin who narrates the novel, will grow up to be such a doctor himself. Fascinating in its detailed depiction of the sights and sounds of its Ethiopian setting, the novel holds your attention throughout, for you care about the characters, both male and female, young and old. Plus, Verghese writes beautifully…A great, sweeping novel.”

–Anne Morris, Dallas Morning News

“To exhilarate you . . . A saga about love, medicine, and exile, this debut reads like a modern Odyssey as it follows twin boys born in an Ethiopian mission hospital as they search for the man presumed to be their father.”

Good Housekeeping

“Magical . . . Vivid . . . Cutting for Stone kept me absorbed and enthralled all the way to India . . . A big, sweeping family saga about twin brothers born of the secret union between a formidable, aloof surgeon and a nun at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. . . . Some of the most gripping writing in the novel is [Verghese’s] evocation of the power, mastery, and process of surgery. . . . It’s the perfect read to escape the recession. . . . I don’t think I’ve read a novel with this kind of depth and sweep and character and sort of vividness for such a long time. It’s just what we need at this moment to disappear into and flee.”

–Tina Brown, The Daily Beast

“Like [John] Irving, like Dickens, Verghese in this book refers to an older model of fiction, prior to the distinction between high and low culture. The novel intends to say something serious about callings, in love and in work, and along the way to provide insights into the histories of medicine and of East Africa, but Cutting for Stone is [also] an airport read, with cliff-hanger plot points at the end of each chapter. For a taste, [just] read the opening. . . . A book that’s unashamedly a page-turner.”

–Peter D. Kramer, PsychologyToday.com

“[A] fantastic evocation of the life of a pair of twins whose mother was a nun and father an English surgeon. The twins both grow up to be doctors and become patients in a ground-breaking organ transplant which is both the tragic and triumphant end of the novel. Verghese’s medical expertise informs and enlivens much of this story. He describes the death of Sister Mary Joseph Praise while giving birth to the twins in lavish detail. . . . [Verghese] is a particular hybrid creature, both novelist and physician, and has a style and magic all his own. Written with a lyrical flair, told through a compassionate first-person point of view, and rich with medical insight and information, [Cutting for Stone] makes for a memorable read.

–William J. Cobb, Houston Chronicle

“Sparkling . . . Epic . . . . Verghese has made a seamless transition from best-selling memoirist to novelist. His plotting is subtle–clues planted in chapter 1 blossom with meaning in chapter 53–and the Stone circle of characters is unforgettable. Cutting for Stone is as wise and worldly as it is gritty and unpretentious.”

–Mike Shea, Texas Monthly

“The best novel I’ve read this year . . . Like Chekhov, Verghese is a doctor and is as authoritative about the workings of the human heart as he is of the human body. The novel moves from birth to death over several continents and decades and if comparisons with another writer have to be made, its blend of intensely realized detail, adventure, myth, wit, drama and poetry reminded me of Shakespeare.”

–Richard Eyre, The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

“Verghese is a novelist revealing extraordinary skill. With Cutting for Stone, [he] proves his gift [and] shares with us a story that cuts into our hearts and burns into our minds. . . . This epic of family and love is told largely from the operating theater as surgeon and soul become one. Each story of lives saved and lost is lovingly and graphically told. Were this to be yet another television-esque medical drama, or if it played out like a simple metaphoric Jacob and Esau tale, it would not be such a remarkable work. It is set apart from pedestrian stories by its international and universal story of love found in brotherhood, medicine, patriotism and family and of a faith that transcends any named religion. It is epic in every sense of the word. . . . Deeply affecting, cuts deep and heals broadly for all who willingly place themselves in its grasp.”

–Adera Causey, Chattanooga Free Press

“An enormously impressive first novel. . . . Many physicians write eloquently about their work–Atul Gawande and Oliver Sacks come readily to mind–but Abraham Verghese may be the first to use his medical expertise to reconfigure a hallowed literary genre: the epic novel. [He] has written a riveting tale . . . while interweaving graphic physiological details and lots of shoptalk. . . . A powerful story of abandonment, betrayal, and redemptive (and destructive) love. . . . Page-turning. A-.”

–Nan Wiener, San Francisco Magazine

“Following in the footsteps of Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra and Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison, Verghese skillfully captures a spectrum of history and culture with a particular voice. . . . The ties and hierarchies of the unconventional ‘family’ at Missing Hospital are intriguing and accessible. One of the novel’s most interesting conflicts lies in how [twins] Shiva and Marion [Stone] struggle to uncover their own personalities despite the tendency of others to see them as one. . . . Verghese excels at establishing the world of the twins . . . A welcome addition to Verghese’s works. He continues to beautifully trace the ambiguities of the human heart.”

–Elizabeth Rabin, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“Required Reading: Marion Stone, the hero/narrator of Verghese’s epic debut novel, is an Indian raised in Ethiopia–as is the author . . . The story of Marion and his twin brother Shiva takes readers from India to Yemen, Addis Ababa to the Bronx.”

–Billy Heller, New York Post

“Some of the best passages in [all of Verghese’s books] are those in which he reads the language of the body–its colours and betraying odours, its telltale pulses–and the emotions that obscure and interrupt that language. . . . While I don’t know Verghese personally, I know the streets and shops he evokes, the hospitals; I know that his setting, seemingly so rich and strange, is real. . . . Verghese’s achievement is to make the reader feel there really is something at stake–birth, love, death, war, loyalty. . . . The mythic arises seamlessly from the quotidian . . . You conserve pages because you don’t want [the book] to end.”

–Aida Edemariam, The Guardian (UK)

“A good writer can open the boundaries of geography, education, religion and ethnicity. We vicariously experience life in all its diversity through the best storytellers. Abraham Verghese is this kind of writer. . . . This is the best novel I have read in a long time, maybe since my favorite John Irving novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany. Verghese’s attention to detail is phenomenal, but never tiresome. He is a storyteller of the first magnitude.”

–Beth Pratt, Lubbock Avalanche Journal (TX)

“Lauded for his sensitive memoir My Own Country, Verghese [now] turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations. During an arduous sea voyage, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone . . . Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brother’s dramatic, biblical story set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the hospital compound in which they grow up, and the love story of their adopted parents, both doctors. The boys become doctors as well, and Verghese’s weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power of the best 19th-century novels.”
Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)

“This epic first novel by well-known doctor/author Verghese follows a man on a mythic quest to find his father. It begins with the dramatic birth of twins, their father serving as surgeon and their mother dying on the table. Their horrorstruck father vanishes, and the now separated boys are raised by two Indian doctors living on the grounds of a mission hospital in early 1950s Ethiopia. The boys both gravitate toward medical practice . . . After Marion, [one of the twins,] is forced to flee the country for political reasons, he begins his medical residency at a poor hospital in New York City, and the past catches up with him. The medical background is fascinating as the author delves into fairly technical areas of human anatomy and surgical procedure. This novel succeeds on many levels and is recommended for all collections.”
–Jim Coan, Library Journal

“Abraham Verghese has always written with grace, precision and feeling [but] he’s topped himself with Cutting for Stone. . . . A vastly entertaining and enlightening book.”
–Tracy Kidder
 
“Absolutely fantastic! Holy cow, this book should be a huge success. It has everything: nuns, conjoined twins, civil war, and medicine–I was thinking that if Vikram Seth and Oliver Sacks were to collaborate on a four-hour episode of Grey’s Anatomy set in Africa, they could only hope to come up with something this moving and entertaining. . . . A marvelous novel!”
–Mark Salzman
 
“A marvelous novel. To read the first page of Cutting for Stone is to fall hopelessly under the spell of a masterful storyteller; and to try to close the book thereafter is to tear oneself away from the most vivid of dreams. Cutting for Stone is a gorgeous epic tale, suffused with unforgettable grace, humanity and compassion. Verghese breathes such life into his characters that there is a poignant familiarity to them, one that lingers and haunts long after the dream is over. Verghese has once again set the bar and re-defined great medical literature–great literature period–for the rest of us.”
–Pauline W. Chen, author of Final Exam

“Abraham Verghese has long been one of my favorite authors. Yet, much as I admire his abundant gifts as both writer and physician, nothing could have prepared me for the great achievement of his first novel. Here is an extraordinary imagination, artfully shaped and forcefully developed, wholly given in service to a human story that is deeply moving, utterly gripping, and, indeed, unforgettable. Cutting for Stone is a work of literature as noble and dramatic as that ancient practice–medicine–that lies at the heart of this magnificent novel.”
–John Burnham Schwartz, author of The Commoner and Reservation Road

“A marvel of a first novel. Verghese’s generosity of spirit is beautifully embodied in this gripping family saga that brings mid-century Ethiopia to vivid life. The practice of medicine is like a spiritual calling in this book, and the unforgettable people at its center bring passion and nobility–not to mention humor and humility–to the ancient art, while living an unforgettable story of love and betrayal and forgiveness. It’s wonderful.”
–Ann Packer

Cutting for Stone is a tremendous accomplishment. The writing is vivid and thrilling, and the story completely absorbing, with its pregnant Indian nun, demon-ridden British surgeon, Siamese twins orphaned and severed at birth, and narrative strands stretching across four continents. A tale this wild is perilous, but there is not a false step anywhere. Accomplished non-fiction writers do not necessarily make accomplished novelists, but with Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese has become both. This is a novel sure to receive a great amount of critical attention–and attention from readers, too. I feel lucky to have gotten to read it.”
 –Atul Gawande
 
“One of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.”
–Robert Bly

“The admixture of the generally unfamiliar but colorful venues of northeastern Africa and a distinctly different yet subtly similar part of the Bronx; a cast of complex but thoroughly conceivable characters; an intriguing medical drama of the highest intensity without deviation from scientific truth–in sum–leads to the diagnosis of an exciting novel and the assured prognosis of a memorable read! I’d prescribe Cutting for Stone not just for every surgeon and surgeon-in-training, but for any reader in search of an awesome tale.”
–Seymour I. Schwartz, Distinguished Alumni Professor of Surgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, editor-in-chief of Principles of Surgery, and author of Surgical Reflections and Gifted Hands


“Prepare to be transported entirely by one of the finest writers of our time. Cutting for Stone by the astonishingly gifted, deeply compassionate writer Abraham Verghese will wrap around you from the very first page and will not let you go.”
–Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Habibi
 
“Empathy for our frail human condition resonates throughout Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone.  By tracing the development of a narrator unlike any other in our literature–from his nearly mythic beginnings in Ethiopia to his immigrant life in contemporary America–Verghese demonstrates that the supreme skill of a physician lies not in his hands but in his heart. No contemporary novelist has written so well about the human body.  Cutting for Stone is an amazing and moving achievement which reminds us of the miracle of being alive.”
–Tom Grimes, author of A Stone of the Heart
 
Cutting for Stone is nothing short of masterful–a riveting tale of love, medicine, and the complex dynamic of twin brothers. It is beautifully conceived and written. The settings are wonderfully pictorial. There is no doubt in my mind that Cutting for Stone will endure in the permanent literature of our time.”
–Richard Selzer, surgeon and author of Letters to a Young Doctor

Cutting the Stone is astonishing–the best book I have read in years. Verghese has a profound love and empathy for his characters and an extraordinary ability to bring his readers to worlds they could never imagine. Here at last is an epic–a great yarn of a novel–as ambitious in its reach as if from another century. Fathers, mothers, sons, children, love: what emotion is not examined? So many of us have been operating as if a sweeping narrative were as quaint as the buggy whip, and yet here comes Verghese to turn that assumption inside out. I wept through parts of this novel, as much for how we live lives of blindness, to ourselves and to others, until we are set on a course that cannot be altered, but just lived and then reconsidered. Bravo to Abraham Verghese!”  
–Marie Brenner, author of Apples & Oranges

“A grand, exquisitely drawn story of twin brothers that ranges from birth to death, and from Ethiopia to America. In Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese shows us with brilliance and passion where healing comes from, and how we move through suffering to embrace life. In the hands of this compassionate doctor/writer, the details are indelible: A wonderful book.”
–Samuel Shem, author of The House of God and The Spirit of the Place


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