Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Emerging from Abraham Verghese’s ‘Cutting for Stone’ reminds me what it was like returning home after three months travelling in Asia; home is familiar, but everything else feels strangely altered by the recent experience.

Except, it is not Asia I traverse, but reading my way through Addis Ababa in central Ethiopia to a hospital in the Bronx, via the eyes, ears, heart and hands of Marion Stone. Marion and Shiva are identical twin boys left orphaned when their mother dies during childbirth and their father, unable to cope with the revelations of that day, abandons them for good.

Raised by Hema and Ghosh, doctors in the Mission Missing Hospital, kept running by Matron’s unrelenting pursuance of international donors, they become a close-knit family, often struggling but nearly always overcoming the day to day dramas of the hospital and the equally unpredictable events of a volatile political environment.

Marion and Shiva follow their role models into the medical world and we too enter the operating room with such verisimilitude, it’s almost like watching an episode or ER (the nearest I have come to knowing what trauma surgery might be like).

Ethiopia & the Horn of Africa

Five hundred plus pages of bliss, I don’t recall when I was last so content that a book continued after 400 pages, so happy was I to enter the author’s realistically created world, taking me to those exotic but familiar to him locations, putting me through numerous experiences I will likely never encounter.  Verghese’s words on the page bring a life-like quality; there is a richness to his prose that is metaphorically beautiful and a perceptive tension that is heart racing mad. It’s a roller coaster ride from start to finish and by page 472 tears of joy were flowing.

Gripping, enticing, compassionately delivered, eye-opening, heart racing, it is an unforgettable journey and a thrill of a read.  I finished it on the first day of 2012 and I can’t imagine reading better than this for a while, it could well become one of my best reads of 2012.