"Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese took me a long time to finish, but not because it's slow moving. At 541 pages, it's not ideal for a casual weekend. But it is well worth reading and lingering over, this story of doctors, Ethiopia, India, America and mirror-image twins.
Marion and Shiva come into the world most unexpectedly. Their Indian mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, works tirelessly at a mission hospital in Ethiopia. She ably assists Dr. Thomas Stone, the mission's brilliant but emotionally unfathomable surgeon. Sister dies in childbirth and the father disappears, leaving the twins to be raised by the mission gynecologist and her longsuffering admirer, Dr. Ghosh.
Most of the action takes place with a backdrop of Ethiopia's 20th century political and social turmoil and privation. Medical procedures and bodily processes are explained throughout, as Marion and Shiva follow their biological and adopted family's career path. This group of physicians understands well the workings of the body. Yet the workings of the heart are elusive.
Unrequited love in all its permutations fills the pages of this book. Fathers disappear, faux mothers arise when and where needed, love is negotiated, bartered, mutilated, stolen, withheld and hidden at turns. Sacrificial love, the real thing, wins a few battles, but not often and not without casualties.
I recommend this book. It's long, but the characters are well drawn and unforgettable.
--Julie C., Headquarters