My friend and I started our book club to spend time with other friends. A time to talk about our chosen book, yes. But, also, a time to get to know each other and share a bit of our lives. What I didn’t suspect? That I would read a book that, even after three weeks, would stick with me and make me ponder giant truths about life, but also the small things that make up our daily existence.
When we ended our April meeting, someone asked what we might read for May. Shrugging, I asked if anyone had any ideas. One of the women suggested Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Having never heard of it, I was game. Another lady said she’d read it, loved it and would enjoy rereading it.
At that moment, I wasn’t aware just how deeply I would be moved by this book club pick. I don’t cry through many books. There are few. My son, when he was a toddler, would watch in wonder as I would sob-read my way through Love You Forever. He was never sure what to think, but would always pick it for me to read and watch me, not the pictures, as I neared the end. I’m sure there is some psychology interpretation of that. You can add Cutting for Stone to this list now. I was in the car, reading the last 50 pages on our drive home from a soccer tournament. Sob-crying ensued.
Make something beautiful of your life. –Cutting for Stone
What I loved: So much about this book. While the first few chapters left me wondering what I’d gotten myself into, once past a few brutal scenes concerning a birth I began to understand this was going to be an epic. I loved the amazing imagery of Ethiopia. An Ethiopia I never knew with so much nuance. Verghese peels back layers concerning the Ethiopian history, people, culture and politics. I was enamored with this Ethiopia. His evocative sense of place is only second to his character development. While we experience most of the story through Marion Stone, one of the twins born at the beginning of the book, Verghese is able to breathe life into so many different people. From the fiery maternal figure Hema to the troubled Genet to the loveable Ghosh, they all leap off the page. Then there are the twins, so alike and yet so very different. Along with the setting and the characters, Verghese delivers beautiful prose. The kind you get lost in and look up an hour later realizing you aren’t, in fact, in Addis Abba. And, I’ll admit, I was often a bit disappointed there wasn’t a plate on injera and a curry waiting for me.
Life to is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backwards. –Cutting for Stone
Would I recommend? Well, if you haven’t determined this yet, I would. Highly. I will note that there is a lot about medical practice. There are scenes that are tough to read if you play a book like a movie in your head. There are also magical scenes about surgeons and the amazing skill they have. If you’re squeamish, be prepared.
Backlist bonus: As I read this book there was something about it that reminded me of E. M. Forster’s works. Some of A Passage to India. Some of A Room with a View. It had little to do with the plot, but more with the ability to shape place with their words.