Book Review

Cutting for Stone

I like novels that make me cry. I enjoy that total absorption in a fictional world that opens up some fiercely protected emotional reserve and pulls it out — all with the gentle force of words. Only words — put together in a specific way by a human mind that has all the same organic parts as yours and mine. It feeds my fragile optimism to realize that a person, just a person, can produce a fictional world so real and powerful that it makes me cry.

I recall three contemporary novels that have this particular power: The God of Small Things by Arhundati Roy, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and now, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

I believe I came to this book a little late. I put out a plea on Facebook for something good to read, and at least four people mentioned this book. I found it in the new books section of the library. Only one of the five or six copies was available for check out. Somehow, this “new” book already had the darkened pages and slanted spine of an often-read book. I had just seven days to get through 550-plus pages.

I finished it in three.

The story, if you don’t know, follows twin brothers, conjoined towns separated at birth, and their lives at a hospital in Africa. This is a gross over- simplification of a complex story, but I hesitate to summarize a story so perfectly compact. Yes, despite the heft of the book, the story was compact, contained. Every possible loose piece that could have rattled off into space found a way back into the puzzle of the story. Tragically deceased mother, troubled absent father, brothers drifting apart by distance and betrayals — it all comes back together. Despite the tragic tones of the resolution, the ending of the story was deeply satisfying. Overall, this book has the feel of a life well and fully lived — I grieved for the end but still felt grateful for the journey.

So now I will add my recommendation to that of my four or five (or more) friends. This is a well-crafted, lovely book. It is elegant in language and precise in construction. It reflects, I believe, the best of author’s other profession (Verghese is a doctor) as well.

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