Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Published: 2009

Genre: fiction

Length: 560 pages

Setting: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and NYC, 1950s-present

Interest: My mother-in-law lent me the book after her book club read it. I’m going to hear him speak tonight, so I thought I’d post my book review and then a recount of his talk.

Summary: We follow the life of the twins Marion and Shiva, with brief forays into the lives of their parents, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, and Thomas Stone. Stone was a surgeon at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa, and Sister Mary Joseph Praise was his assistant. She died giving birth to conjoined twins and Stone flees the hospital in the aftermath. The twins are raised by Hema and Ghosh, two other surgeons at the hospital, along with Genet, daughter of the maid. All three kids are interested in medicine, although Genet gets pulled into the Eritrean push for independence. This leads to Marion needing to leave Ethiopia quickly. He ends p in Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in NYC, where he becomes a surgeon and runs into Thomas Stone. He also meets back up with Genet, who gives him hepatitis B. He nearly dies, but Shiva donates part of his liver, dying of complications after the surgery.

Final thoughts: An excellent book. I really enjoyed the setting. I haven’t read anything set in Ethiopia before, and the author did a great job of putting us there in the shoe-string hospital. By the end, I was completely invested in all the characters and wanted to know what would happen to each one.

Title comes from: The Hippocratic Oath says, “I will not cut for stone…I will leave this operation for practitioners.” Basically it means you shouldn’t do more than you are trained for. The title is also a play on the fact that the surgeons’ names were Stone.

Reading challenges fulfilled: None, since this is a review from a book read in a previous year.

 If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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