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175 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful novel, a great political study, and a vivid medical narrative
Verghese brilliantly brings to life the Addis Ababa of the 1960s,'70s and '80s,a time of horrific political convulsions that transformed the ancient hidden Christian African empire of Haile Selassie's day into a Stalinist revolutionary hell under Mengistu, and to his regime's final collapse. Yet this is just the background, to a convincing and beautiful saga of passions...
Published on 27 July 2009 by Mr. P. Robbs

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3.0 out of 5 stars Blood and gore in Africa
It was an interesting read and provoked some interesting discussions with my book group. The medical procedures were meticulously detailed but at times so graphic that I felt repelled and distracted from the main narrative. For me, the novel gained pace as soon as the protagonist went to live and work in America, possibly because I could relate more to the background...
Published 4 months ago by val


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have read in years - brought tears to my eyes., 9 Jun. 2011
By 
Nigel Mc (The Chilterns) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
`He was teaching me how to die, just as he'd taught me how to live.'

`A rich man's faults are covered with money, but a surgeon's faults are covered with earth'.

These two quotes are just 2 of the many apt quotes which abound in this novel. Books often polarise people's opinions and this book is no exception with many people criticising the amount of time devoted to the description of a whole variety of complex medical procedures. Of course, the book is written by a medical professional and most of the lead characters are surgeons and the storyline has a very strong medical base. Personally, I thought that the medical procedures were necessary, relevant and proportional to the story. Without any shadow of doubt this is one of the best books that I have read in years!

While much of the book is about a small hospital in Ethiopia, for me the novel was more about people, personalities and relationships and in particular how some people find forgiveness so difficult and the destructive consequences of this human failing. There is so much to enjoy with this book. It is a riveting read from beginning to end, although if I am brutally honest there was a brief moment two thirds of the way through when I felt that the story was losing its momentum. It would be a `spoiler' to give the reason for this but suffice to say that the story soon regained its former glory and the final quarter was both moving and fulfilling.

This is a beautiful story and it is very well told. There were times when I confess that it brought tears to my eyes. It is undoubtedly a book that I will want to re-read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read!, 11 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
Verghese thoroughly enthralled me with his knowledgeable and nuanced storytelling. I learned a lot about a variety of different subjects: Ethiopia, Eritrea, transplants, fistulas...but always within the totally engrossing context of the characters' lives. I highly recommend it!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Blood, Guts and Soul, 30 May 2010
By 
Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
The friend who recommended "Cutting for Stone" mentioned that `it is a bit medical'. Surely an understatement as this book is almost entirely medical and none the worse for that. I took a little time to get to grips with it all, particularly as the opening medical drama involves an exceptionally gruesome case of "Placenta Praevia" which was my own first, very frightening, experience of childbirth. The reader is rocket propelled into the gory, under equipped, Addis Ababa Operating Theatre No 3 (there is only one actually) with Dr. Thomas Stone, the Matron, Nurse Probationer and the horribly suffering mother-to-be, Sister Mary Joseph Praise. This baptism of fire sets the scene for a bystander's view of many further dramatic and sometimes terrifyingly pioneering operations.

Well now having read this book, I at least, really am on rather different terms with my internal organs. Less mysterious, they feel like the old friends they truly are and I know where they live! The author who explains so comfortably and clearly the workings of the human body also wonderfully demonstrates the love of teaching, attributed especially to Ghosh in the story, making it easy for the layman to take on board new and important knowledge.

Only such a widely experienced and completely dedicated surgeon could have credibly written like this. On the last pages his meticulous attribution of every beautiful phrase he chose to incorporate throughout his great work paid careful tribute to his sources but it was his human heart that recognised their worth and resonance. The poetic prose of "Cutting for Stone" lifts it all into the highest class. Even the clever title has two possible meanings.

Abraham Verghese mentions his friendship and correspondence with the writer John Irving, acknowledging his influence. I can see the similarities, mainly in the generosity of the writing, their ability to fill such sheer, wide, ambitious canvas but most of all their affectionate observations of the human condition.

I didn't realise that I needed to know so much more than I did about Ethiopia and Eritrea, `Abyssinia', the countries around and their varied peoples. As with Alexander McCall Smith and Botswana, it has taken a man who has lived there, loved it and taken its pulse (these medical references have got into me now) to educate the reader and coax us into recognising truly good and different ways of living. The political strife is brought to life so sharply; it made me feel ashamed that over the years I hadn't properly taken in the truth behind the news. The differing influences on the country's way of life of Emperor Haile Selassie, and later Mengistu, are detailed informatively. Day to day description of existence there during the second half of the twentieth century immerses you in the atmosphere. Scents, flowers, clothes, sounds, speech patterns, religions, the compromises and joys of living in Addis Ababa and that area really spring off the pages. There are also fascinating and inspiring descriptions of highly impressive yet perhaps undervalued immigrant doctors working in New York around the 1980's.

A love of language flows through all this fable; the long and self- explanatory terms used by the medical profession. Warmly exhorted by Ghosh to wallow in the glory of such words, Shiva and Marion are initiated into the magic of thoughtful diagnosis and good common sense from their earliest days. Learning by observation throughout their childhood living at the creatively funded and heroically run "Missing" Hospital, they had the finest of `hands on' medical educations, collecting knowledge in stages and being allowed to absorb it at their own pace.

The nature of `mirror twins', central to the book is one secret to its enthralling quality. Others are the undercurrents of unrequited love and separation, life long friendship, loss and over whelming guilt. It is a huge read and sometimes a challenging one, with detours and recollections along the way. All has its reason for being there, just be patient and hang on in as this book is well worth the time spent with it. The chosen poem at the beginning is truly very lovely and comforting. The eventual ending certainly had me in tears.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 29 Dec. 2011
By 
A. Roberts (Manchester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
I would certainly recommend this book. It's a great 'fiction based on fact' read, as can be seen from all the acknowledgements at the back. I felt great empathy for several of the characters and loved the descriptions of life in 'Missing hospital'. I've passed the book on to a friend and recommended it to others.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 29 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
Having read Verghese's Tennis Partner more than a decade ago, I was thrilled to find this novel. It lived up to expectations, the intermingling of the descriptions of Addis Abbaba, the historical backdrop, and the touch of mysticism really drew me in. I was sad to finish it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic settings but not epic story, 28 Nov. 2011
By 
J. Willis (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
This is certainly an epic book in terms of the characters and settings. Here we follow Marion who is one of a twin as he grows up in Ethiopia and eventually leaves to go to America. We get back stories of other characters and through this we also get taken to Scotland and India. This book certainly tries its best to pull you in straight away as it starts with the birth of the twins to their nun mother whom no one had a clue she was even pregnant.

The first part of the book contains alot of back stories for quite a few characters while the twins are being born and I did wonder why the author was doing this for what seemed like minor characters. However during the second part of the book this all made complete sense as suddenly what seemed like small information in the first part of the book suddenly became a big piece of information in the second. I guess this is evidence of how well the author has really thought out this story and made everything connect.

There are alot of surgerical procedures in the book but I personally didn't find the descriptions too in-depth that I couldn't understand them and they are only used in the book when the plot requires them. Marion describes to us how a hospital like `Missing' (where he was born and grew up) can operate in a country like Ethiopia. Then in America he describes how a hospital relying on Medicare in a poor area in New York works in contrast to a rich hospital in Boston. Knowing very little about healthcare in America this was fascinating to me.

Overall though I thought this book was a good read with a good story but not one I will add to my all time favorites or anything.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The pain, the love, and the losses, 1 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
I approached this novel out of a sense of curiosity about Ethiopia, wanting to learn more about its recent history and the local culture which separates it (in many ways) from sub-Saharan Africa while also linking it to North Africa, the Gulf and SW Asia.

The medical character of the story was intriguing to me, as I recently finished "The Physician" by Noah Gordon. Any one who has a debt of gratitude to any physician will soon be absorbed into this novel which explores in depth the shaping of surgeons in particular.

My reaction now, having just finished the novel, is "Wow!" What a gripping story of the pain, the love, and the losses endured by members of this "family," created by chance and held together by mutual affection.

Although the narrator emerges clearly as a personality in his own right, his adoptive father dominates the scene, with his expansive personality, wisdom, and sheer love for life. The author also pays homage to individuals from both the UK and India who, as true teachers, generously share themselves and their knowledge through the practice of medicine. Would that we all could have teachers like them! All these characters are well-drawn and are eminently credible, except for the shadowy Genet, whom I would like to have understood better.

The stories of daily life in Addis Ababa remind me of so many places in the developing, and the Arab, world through the ordinary details of smells, sights and sounds. Moreover, anyone who has emigrated from their home country will certainly sympathize with the nostalgia of the narrator as he tries to make a life abroad.

The writing style is fluent throughout and the frequent citations or literary references add depth to the topic of the moment. It is particularly challenging to try to reconcile the choice that is drawn between a life well lived and work well done.

The only thing that bothered me was the extensive list of acknowledgments at the end of the novel. I'm not sure that it is really necessary to acknowledge sources when one has borrowed only part of a phrase or paraphrased a single sentence. Still, the author is conscientious and draws our attention to his sources of inspiration as well as acknowledging all the help and support he received from his friends, colleagues and family.

It is also striking how strongly he insists that this is entirely a work of fiction.

Verghese would doubtless be a very interesting person to meet and talk to!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 12 Oct. 2010
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This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book. The book is mainly set at a hospital in Ethiopia and involves the people running it. The twins, Marion and Shiva, motherless from birth and abandoned by their father are brought up in the hospital community. Their childhood is described and how their lives are shaped not only by the people around them but also by political events in the country. Shiva's betrayal of Marion and events around them lead to their separation and only years later are they reunited under tragic circumstances. The book deals with human interactions from love to violence, from care to abuse and how these sometimes are intertwined and it is this description of human emotions that make the book excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it immediately,., 18 May 2010
This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
I know that this book has had mixed reviews from intellectuals and critics. I am neither. I love a good read. I loved this book...I didn't want to leave it. I wonder how we treat the brave immigrants who arrive at our shores and airports and if we are as brave and innocently hopeful as they are. Do we disillusion them totally, do we respect their cultures? Probably not. What kind of hell have people lived in to be able to find heaven in our ghettoes?

So many questions arise from this book, its so humbling and makes one readdress ones own wellbeing and the totally selfish society we have created in wealthy nations.

I thank the author for giving us this book. I remember my father visited the Palace of Haile Selassie in the sixties having been stationed in Aden. As he paraded in front of the Palace he was surprised to find that the lions that guarded the palace where alive!! Ethiopia in those days was not the country that Bob Geldof and all his friends visited in the eighties with Band Aid.

All I can say is we must travel, see how other people live and see what they got through before they emigrated, against their better judgement often, and we must treat them with the same love and respect as our own peoples.

This book presses the buttons that remind us to love our fellow man.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written masterpiece, 27 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
I read this as my book club recommendation and consider it to be one of the best discovered through this medium. It is so beautifully written with a lightness of touch. From beginning to end, I was drawn in to the world of Missing and the country of Ethiopia. I loved the gentle polite style of the prose. Although some did not like the medical descriptions I felt they enhanced the story by drawing the reader into the world of Marion & Shiva. I cannot wait to read another Abraham Verghese simply because the worlds he creates are irresistable
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Cutting for Stone
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
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