July 11, 2011

Cutting For Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
2009 Vintage Books
2009 Random House Audio; Unabridged edition
Reader: Sunil Malhotra
Finished 6/7/11
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher’s Blurb

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death 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.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

I started off reading the printed version of this novel, but switched to audio after a few chapters. It took me a little over 50 pages to get hooked, but from there on, I was completely engrossed. At over 658 pages, this is quite a chunkster and it took me almost 2 months to listen to. But I fell in love with the reader’s voice and didn’t mind the length of the story one bit. From AudioFile:

Dr. Marion Stone, the Ethiopian-born, half-Indian protagonist and narrator of CUTTING FOR STONE, at one point refers to his adopted mother's voice as both lilting and singsong. The same can be said of Sunil Malhotra's expert reading of this audiobook, a moving story about twin brothers born of an Indian Catholic nun and an expatriate English doctor. Malhotra slips into the skin of Marion, a moody, bookish boy and later a talented surgeon, who, against a background of African poverty, war, and medical breakthroughs, is oddly detached but always compassionate. Malhotra's ease with the sometimes-complex medical terminology and the broad cast of Indian, African, English, and even some Bronx-accented characters makes for a fascinating listening experience.

On Ethiopia:

My greatest consolation, Ghosh thought, for only the hundredth time since his arrival in Ethiopia, has been the women of this land. The country had completely surprised him. Despite pictures he’d seen in National Geographic, he’d been unprepared for this mountain empire shrouded in mist. The cold, the altitude, the wild roses, the towering trees, reminded him of Coonoor, a hill station in India he’d visited as a boy. His Imperial Majesty, Emperor of Ethiopia, may have been exceptional in his bearing and dignity, but Ghosh discovered that His Majesty’s people shared his physical features. Their sharp, sculpted noses and soulful eyes set them between Persians and Africans, with the kinky hair of the latter, and the lighter skin of the former. Reserved, excessively formal, and often morose, they were quick to anger, quick to imagine insults to their pride. As for theories of conspiracy and the most terrible pessimism, surely they’d corned the world market on those. But get past all those superficial attributes, and you found people who were supremely intelligent, loving, hospitable, and generous.

The Dallas Morning News says, Grand enough for the movies and I’d have to agree. What a marvelous film this richly textured saga would make! Cutting for Stone is one of the best books I’ve read this year. The characters, both major and minor, are so well-drawn and unique, they’ll remain with me for years to come.

Caribousmom says, Cutting for Stone is one of those books which is impossible to put down. Here is a lush, emotional, intelligent and compelling novel written by an accomplished story teller. I loved that Verghese, a physician himself, wrote a novel about two generations of doctors and was able to capture the passion of medicine. By placing the story mostly in a small African village, Verghese is able to show that the physician’s greatest gift is not found in technology, but in his or her ability to provide comfort.

I loved this book and its characters (who felt like living, breathing people to me). I loved the journey. Abraham Verghese has written a gorgeous novel which deserves to be savored. Readers who love hefty family sagas in the style of John Irving, and are drawn to literary fiction will enjoy this book.

Go here to read her entire review.

My good friend, Kay, also loved this novel. She says, this was a tremendous book with a wonderfully talented author. It was epic in scope and gave me so much to think about. It was a not a fast read for me. However, I wanted to be sure that I kept up with all the characters and events that packed the narrative.

You can read her complete review here.

Final thoughts: I loved this beautiful, provocative debut novel. Don’t be put off by its size; you won’t want it to end.


  1. I have this on my list, but I'll have to wait until I can fit in the time for a big one like this!

  2. I LOVED the audio version of this one. Glad u did too.

  3. Overall, I thought this was almost good. :) It definitely had some great spots, but I was bored - often! Glad your time listening was rewarded.

  4. I've heard nothing but good about this, and I even bought it for my mother when she was so ill this past Spring. She was crazy about it, as are you...looks like a read for me in July or August! I'm off to add it to my sidebar. (I envy how you can listen to books so well. I know you said it took about 50 pages to get into it, but I'm terrible at listening to books! Maybe because I usually listen to children all day? :)

  5. Anonymous7:41 AM

    Les, I am so pleased that this book worked well for you. I really, really wanted it to. Thanks for the link as well!

    My book group still talks about it and I think even though it is a chunkster, it works well for discussion.

  6. I am not sure if this is my type of book, but people are making it sound really good. I might have to see if the library has it.

  7. I don't think I've heard a bad thing about this book. I've kind of put it off because of its size, but think I need to get over that.

  8. It's on my library's Overdrive wishlist! Woohoo!

  9. Anonymous6:51 PM

    I loved this one. Most of my book club liked it too, although the length proved problematic to some of our members.

  10. I'm so on the fence with this one. A friend of mine read it and hated it. I'm worried because you went from print to audio and audio is just not a format I enjoy all that well.

  11. Les, SO glad you loved this book as I did :) It was so sprawling and wonderful. And, of course, thank you for the link love, too :)

  12. Anonymous4:59 AM

    I just finished this book and thought that it was fabulous. I agree with you, it took a while to get into, but it was so worth it. I want to sit back down and read it again. That rarely happens!

  13. I thought Cutting for Stone was amazing. And, the funny thing about it is that I avoided the book. Everyone kept saying, "It's by a doctor," which made me think, "Oh, then there will be a terribly vain physician who looks down on everyone else, thinking them common." Of course, you know that couldn't be farther from what it's like. I'm so glad my Fearless F2F Leader talked me into reading it.

  14. Pam - It's quite a chunkster, but once you start, you really can't put it down. One of my co-workers read it over the course of a weekend!

    Diane - Wasn't it wonderful?! I loved the reader and now I have such a vivid impression of the setting and characters, I doubt I'll forget this one for a long time.

    Joy - Oh, dear. Boredom isn't good! I'll have to re-read your review.

    Bellezza - I remember that you bought your mother a copy. My mom enjoyed it, too, so you better get crackin' and give it a read. :) I'm sorry audio books aren't your thing. I probably wouldn't listen either if I didn't have all that quiet time at work between 7 and 9. It's perfect for listening while I shelve the books.

    Kay - I wish I still had a f2f book group with which to discuss this book. It's definitely going on my Top 10 List for 2011.

    Kailana - Give it a try. You might be surprised. It's a marvelous character-driven saga that I hated to see end.

    Kathy - I've been put off by long books, too, but you know, some of my favorite books have been chunksters. I need to get over my hesitancy to read them, too.

    Andi - Whoohoo is right! Enjoy!!

    reviewsbylola - I can understand why some wouldn't like the length, but as I got closer to the ending, I didn't want to finish and wished it had been even longer.

    Staci - Climb down from that fence, woman, and give this a read!! You won't be disappointed, I promise. Just stick it out for the first few chapters until all the characters are set in your mind. Then you won't be able to set it aside.

    Wendy - As I said to Kathy, some of my favorite books have been chunksters. Hmmm, I wonder what I should try next. Well, after I finish my current mystery read and Marisa de los Santos' upcoming release.

    theveryhungrybookworm - Gosh, the consensus seems to be "loved it" and "it was fabulous." I just love to hear that from so many readers. Definitely a big winner amongst so many. I agree with you, too. I'd love to sit down and read it again.

    Nancy - "Loved it." "It was fabulous." "Amazing." "Crazy about it." Apparently there are quite a few fans of this book just in my little circle of blogmates. I'm so glad I finally got around to reading it. Now to peruse my shelves for another chunkster. ;)


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