All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, is the story of twin boys born to a disgraced nun and her doctor lover at the Missing Hospital in Ethiopia. Readers shouldn’t be intimidated by the book’s length—more than 600 pages. The novel’s intriguing opening is indicative of the story to come. Verghese masterfully creates rich characters, some of which are drawn from both medical and political history, and spins a story that once begun, the reader will not want to put down.

Marion Stone is the story’s narrator, one of the pair of twins born to Sister Mary Joseph Praise and Dr. Thomas Stone. Stone was an acclaimed surgeon and Praise his assistant, “dutiful, competent, uncomplaining, and never absent” except for the birth of their twins. The twins, Marion and Shiva, were raised by Hema, the resident gynecologist, and Ghosh, her eventual husband, due to the events surrounding the twins’ birth. Marion is a scholar and becomes a skilled surgeon, but Shiva is a genius, with a photographic memory and inherent mathematical and mechanical abilities. And Shiva has a skill Marion does not. “He had so many ways of climbing into the tree house in his head, escaping the madness below, and pulling the ladder up behind him; I was envious,” Marion wrote.

Because Marion and Shiva are both doctors, the book includes many descriptions of surgical procedures. They are academic but never dull to read, and one can’t help but feel their own interest in subjects like organ donation piqued by the narratives. One of the gifts from Abraham Verghese, in addition to the story itself, is the gift of curiosity. Including medical facts and procedures, places, characters, and events such as Addis Ababa, Haile Selassie, and the political unrest in Ethiopia, encourages the reader to seek out what is true and what facts might have been embellished or changed for the story. Those who love to learn will appreciate these prompts to find out more.

Marion’s story involves his relationship with his twin, Shiva, and the love of his life, Genet, who is raised with the twins and is the daughter of a domestic worker at the mission. While Shiva learns at Hema’s clinic, Marion travels to the United States to complete his training and residency. There, he finds ghosts from his previous life in Ethiopia, and seeks to find closure with his father, Genet, and Shiva.

Cutting for Stone won the American Booksellers Indies Choice award for Adult Fiction in 2010. Dr. Verghese is a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and is himself of Indian decent raised in Addis Ababa. Cutting for Stone was published in 2010 by Vintage Books.

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