Friday, September 9, 2011

it cuts deep: a book review

Cutting for StoneCutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Once every few years, I read a book that kind of takes over my mind.  This book, Cutting for Stone, just made its way onto my top ten life list (I'll repost the list at the bottom).  I think I've written about this before, but all of the books on the list have the same key elements:  rich, complicated characters, beautiful prose, compelling story, and most importantly, they deal with issues that wake something up in me, that grab hold of my understanding of the world and myself in it, and shake it up. 

This book is, epically so, a fantastic read.  It is a page-turner once you get into it, yes, but more importantly for me, it is so beautifully written that it breaks your heart a little. 

Here is the quick summary taken from the back of the book:

"Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon.  Orphaned by their mother's death and their father's disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution."

When I finished this book, I truly felt like I know and love Marion and Shiva, and I miss them now that the book is over, these totally human, imperfect, smart, complicated characters.  I am in awe of writers who create and mold such rich characters, so tangible that they become parts of the lives of the readers. 

PLUS, a lot of this book takes place in the medical world, as the parents of the twins are doctors and the twins become doctors.  There are many in-depth scenes about surgery and patient care.  I love this stuff.  I think I was supposed to be a doctor or nurse in another life.  I am endlessly fascinated by surgery, medicine, and hospitals, so long as my children are not the patients, please and thank you.

So, yes, I recommend this book to you if you like kick-ass writing, rich characters and all things medical. I will also warn you that it has incredibly sad elements.   I have no idea if this book will do to you what it did to me.  It's kind of like I had a relationship with this book.  It may not be the same for you.

Here are the other books (in no particular order) that had the same effect on me.  After I typed each title, I am tempted to add:  "Oh God... such a good book."

1. Angle of Repose: Wallace Stegner
2. Catcher in the Rye: J.D. Salinger
3. Atonement: Ian McEwan
4. Lolita: Vladimir Nabakov
5. The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. Eat, Pray, Love: Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Middlesex: Geoffrey Eugenides
8. Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen
9. Passage to India: E.M. Forster
10. Cutting for Stone:  Abraham Verghese

Totally unrelated update:  I saw an allergist this week.  At first we talked about what happened to me in Boston, and he was sure it was just a weird combination of fatigue, dehydration, something I ate, and other unknown conditions that he thought created a "perfect storm" that landed me in the ER.  Just to be sure, he did a skin test for shrimp.  Lo and behold,  I actually AM allergic to shrimp.  I can't tell you how happy that made me.   I wanted to hug him.  I hated the idea that this weird thing that couldn't quite be explained could happen to me again any day.  No more shrimp for me.

Have a good weekend!


kristin marie said...

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver was mine. I haven't read much of your list and will be taking a few suggestions. Thanks!

The Finicky Farmer said...

Though I'm happy to hear that your medical mystery has been solved, I'm sorry that means no shrimp for you. Sadness.

Are you psyched for the new Eugenides book (_The Marriage Plot_), which comes out next month?

The Harmons said...

Glad you got the shrimp diagnosis! In related news Leah had a test for the gluten allergy today...

Also, Cutting for Stone is great!!! Picked it up a couple of years ago just because of the "India connection" and couldn't put it down!

Eileen said...

Excellent review! It took me WEEKS to read that book, and I'm usually a fast reader, but it was so worth it. I also felt like I was living with the characters throughout those weeks.

Have you read his non-fiction books? They are "In My Country" and "The Tennis Partner," and I actually *prefer* them to "Cutting for Stone." I think he is an amazing talent.

Therese said...

I'm excited to add some of these to my "to-read" list! I heard somewhere that people who like Catcher in they Rye don't like Great Gatsby and vice versa. Indeed, I love the Great Gatsby and thought Catcher in the Rye was depressing and whiny haha. I think it's great you have both on your list, though!

Sarah said...

The History of Love.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
Life of Pi.
The Courage of Mary Sutter.

Those aren't my all time faves, but ones I loved off the top of my head.


Lindsey said...

I just added this book to my Amazon wish list. How could I not? Anyone who puts Angle of Repose as there number one book is someone I will willingly take literary advice from! Seriously, I'm not sure I know more than 3 people who've even read Angle of Repose. Thanks for the great blog that I enjoy all the way out here in Colorado (while dreaming of trips back to see my family in NH)!