Monday, November 15, 2010

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone
by Abraham Verghese
Vintage Books, 2010
658 pages
source: purchased

In a nutshell:
Set in Ethiopia and New York, Cutting for Stone is a moving and unforgettable story of the bond between twin brothers, their fascination with medicine, love and betrayal, and the meaning of family.

My thoughts:
Cutting for Stone was the book I most regretted not reading in 2009, so I was thrilled when it was selected by my book club. From the opening pages of the prologue, to the dramatic conclusion some 650 pages later, I loved every word. Unfortunately, a reaction like that often causes serious problems for me when it comes to writing a review.

How can I possibly do justice to this extraordinary novel? Quite simply, I can't.  So instead, here are a few lines that cause me to pause and think.
“Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?”
“The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.”
"I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in the art..." (Hippocratic Oath, intro to Part Three)
As you may guess from the Hippocratic Oath quote, there is a lot of medicine and surgery in this novel. Verghese is a medical doctor, and it shows. If you are not interested in the long, detailed descriptions of various surgeries, it will not detract from the story if you simply skip or skim them. I, however, found them fascinating.

My rating:

Bottom line:
Quite possibly my favorite book of the year


  1. I loved Cutting for Stone, one of my favourite reads from last year, glad you had an equally positive experience. I loved the medical bits and all the vivid descriptions of Ethiopia.

  2. I'm beginning to think I'm the only one in the world who hasn't read this yet! I've actually checked it out about three times and I just haven't had time for it. Maybe I should suggest it for my book club, then I'd definitely make time. It does sound wonderful.

  3. karenlibrarian, you're not alone. I have it, but haven't read it yet. Arghh! Too many books!

  4. Wow! That is very high praise, JoAnn!

  5. I have the same problem, JoAnn, when it comes to telling others about a book I just loved. I feel I'm not doing it justice. You, however, did great. Good idea to use the quotes.

  6. It's been a favorite of mine as well; the audio was very good. Glad u loved it JoAnn.

  7. I haven't read this yet either. Although it only came out over here in England during the summer so I don't feel too bad.

  8. oh i must read this! i actually have a copy but havent opened it yet. But I am in my final year of medical school myself and spent a few weeks in Ethiopia amongst other bits of Africa this summer, doing medical work, so i expect i would love this to bits. So glad to read your review!

  9. I've never heard of this novel before but what with your great praise and the fsct that I'm a twin I'm writing down on my list to read.

  10. The best books so often are the most difficult ones to write about! But rest assured that you said enough to intrigue us!

  11. Well you've definitely written enough in your review to make me want to read it - it's gone straight on my to read list!

  12. Lovely treez - This may be the first book I've read set in Ethiopia. Verghese did a wonderful job writing about the the culture and describing the landscape!

    Karenlibrarian - I may have put this off a little longer without the extra push from my book club.... long books are too easy to 'save for later'.

    Amy - Too many books... no kidding!!

    Nan - This books certainly deserves the praise!

    Margot - I thought I'd let Verghese's ideas take center stage. Not sure why I have such a hard time writing about books I love...

    Diane - I'll bet this was wonderful on audio!

    Vivienne - Well, you've only had a few months... it took me years to get to it, lol!

    Jane - A medical background and familiarity with Ethiopia make you the ideal reader for this book! I'll keep an eye out for your review ;-)

    Joan - You'll love reading about the twin relationship in this book! With twin daughters and sisters who are twins, I sure did.

    Nymeth - Oh good, I'm glad!

    Sam - Thank you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  13. Glad you enjoyed it - one of my favourites books of 2010 also.
    I have the same problem expressing how I feel about the books that make a strong impression....enough to say you loved it at times.

  14. I have heard nothing but praise for this book. And sometimes by saying little you say more. there's something to be said for leaving a space to draw the reader in1

  15. This is the book my book club chose for next month's meeting. I am excited to read it!

  16. Wow that is an incredible rating! This book is looming at me from my shelf since it's so long but I keep hearing such wonderful things about it I know I just have to read it at some point!

  17. I loved this book too, but now, almost 2 years later, I have forgotten so much! which I hate!!! I need to read it again!

  18. I have wanted to read this book since it came out! I rarely buy books full price, though, and I've yet to find a copy at a library sale or used bookstore. I've heard really good things about Cutting for Stone--I will absolutely get to it someday!

    I agree that it's hard to write a post about a book you really loved. How do you do it justice? How do you discuss it without gushing like crazy? I think you did a great job!

  19. I really regretted not reading it last year too :-( It would have made my top 10 of 2009. I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it too.

  20. Cat - Isn't it funny? So much easier to write about a book you don't really love all that much...

    Fleurfisher - Thank you. That's a good way of thinking about it!

    Stephanie -Our taste in books seems similar... I think you'll love it!

    Amused - Be sure to start it when you have some time. It's a book you'll want to get lost in!

    Rhapsodyinbooks - I read it early this fall, and the details are already starting to fade. I'm sure there won't be much left in 2 yrs. for me either!

    Erin - Thanks. I almost did a gushing post, but was cringing as I reread!

    Jackie - I was sorry not to read this last year, but it was definitely worth the wait!

  21. I have noted that this may just be your favorite book of the year..therefore, I must read it! I'm planning on launching a challenge blog next year that will be all about blogger's favorite book of the year and others reading them...this one is on my list!

  22. Staci - What an exciting idea! Still haven't decided about challenges for next year, but I'll be sure to keep an eye out for it.

  23. I can't wait to read this one! My mom sent me her copy and said she loved it. I hope to convince a few of my friends to read along with me so we can chat about it over dinner. Glad to hear you loved it!!

  24. Les - My guess is that you're going to love it! Great idea to go out to dinner with friends and discuss. I ended up missing my book club meeting, so never really got to talk about it.... maybe I'll fly to Nebraska for dinner ;-)

  25. I picked up a copy of this one at the Texas Book Fest because I was hoping for Verghese to sign. Snafus happened and I've considered returning the book--though it has been a month and why would I return a book? Guess I shouldn't. ;) So glad you loved it, JoAnn. My favorite books are the ones that you can't possibly do justice in a review!

  26. Trish - Definitely hang on to the book, even if it's not signed! Not sure why it's so hard to write about the really great ones... sigh

  27. I loved this one too. It is possibly my favorite of the year.

  28. Yolanda - This seems to be one book most bloggers agree on. Glad to hear it was one of your favorites, too! Thanks for visiting.


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