Cutting For Stone

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Cutting For Stone

by Abraham Verghese

Random House Of Canada | January 26, 2010 | Trade Paperback

4.5526 out of 5 rating. 38 Reviews
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International Bestseller

A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel - an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth 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. Yet it will be love, not politics - their passion for the same woman - that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him - nearly destroying him - Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.


From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 688 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: January 26, 2010

Publisher: Random House Of Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307357783

ISBN - 13: 9780307357786

Found in: Fiction and Literature
Every once in a long while, you come upon a book that is truly extraordinary. Abraham Verghese’s 'Cutting for Stone' is one such book. It is a breathtaking family saga which sweeps you up and keeps you under its spell from the first page to very last sentence. The story opens with Sister Mary Joseph Praise, an innocent and beautiful young nun who is setting off to do good in the world. But at her very first posting, and before even beginning to fulfill her mandate, she is brutally raped. We are never sure exactly how she processes this experience or manages to move on, but before long the fervently religious Sister flees to the one place on the planet where she feels there is goodness – the mission hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Here the brash and brilliant Dr. Thomas Stone, a man she once nursed from the brink of death back to health, takes her under his wing, and, against plan, into his heart. Conflicted about their feelings, they can hardly acknowledge the depth of their passion -- not to themselves, not to each other and certainly not to their colleagues. But their secret cannot be kept forever. Sister Mary is carrying twins. Marion and Shiva Stone are the result of this illicit union. Almost at birth the twins are orphaned. Sister Mary dies in childbirth and Dr. Stone is too overcome with grief to do anything but disappear. And here the real story begins. We are with Marion and Shiva as they come of age, develop the same passion for medicine that their parents shared, and fall in love with the same woman. Their shared passion for this woman will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland and find refuge working as an intern in an underfunded, overcrowded New York hospital. When his past catches up to him, Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him. As John Schwartz, author of 'Reservation Road' writes, “This is a human story that is deeply moving, utterly gripping and totally unforgettable.” Verghese, who is himself a physician, writes with a sure hand, a clear intelligence and a wise heart. There is not a wasted word, an emotional misstep, or a superficial character. You will relish every page and never want it to end. Brilliant… truly brilliant.

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– More About This Product –

Cutting For Stone

Cutting For Stone

by Abraham Verghese

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 688 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: January 26, 2010

Publisher: Random House Of Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307357783

ISBN - 13: 9780307357786

Read from the Book

The Coming After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954. We took our first breaths at an elevation of eight thousand feet in the thin air of Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. The miracle of our birth took place in Missing Hospital’s Operating Theater 3, the very room where our mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, spent most of her working hours, and in which she had been most fulfilled. When our mother, a nun of the Diocesan Carmelite Order of Madras, unexpectedly went into labor that September morning, the big rain in Ethiopia had ended, its rattle on the corrugated tin roofs of Missing ceasing abruptly like a chatterbox cut off in midsentence. Over night, in that hushed silence, the meskel flowers bloomed, turning the hillsides of Addis Ababa into gold. In the meadows around Missing the sedge won its battle over mud, and a brilliant carpet now swept right up to the paved threshold of the hospital, holding forth the promise of something more substantial than cricket, croquet, or shuttlecock. Missing sat on a verdant rise, the irregular cluster of whitewashed one- and two-story buildings looking as if they were pushed up from the ground in the same geologic rumble that created the Entoto Mountains. Troughlike flower beds, fed by the runoff from the roof gutters, surrounded the squat buildings like a moat. Matron HirstR
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From the Publisher

International Bestseller

A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel - an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth 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. Yet it will be love, not politics - their passion for the same woman - that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him - nearly destroying him - Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Abraham Verghese is also the author of The Tennis Partner, a New York Times Notable Book, and My Own Country, a National Book Critics Circle finalist. Currently a professor of internal medicine at Stanford University, he has also served on faculties in Iowa, Texas, and Tennessee. A graduate of the Iowa Writers'' Workshop, his fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and Granta. He lives in Palo Alto, California.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

“A marvel of a first novel. Verghese’s generosity of spirit is beautifully embodied in this gripping family saga that brings mid-century Ethiopia to vivid life. The practice of medicine is like a spiritual calling in this book, and the unforgettable people at its center bring passion and nobility — not to mention humor and humility — to the ancient art, while living an unforgettable story of love and betrayal and forgiveness. It’s wonderful.” — Ann Packer “The medical background is fascinating as the author delves into fairly technical areas of human anatomy and surgical procedure. This novel succeeds on many levels and is recommended for all collections.” — Jim Coan, Library Journal “Lauded for his sensitive memoir  My Own Country , Verghese [now] turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations…. Verghese’s weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power of the best 19th-century novels.” — Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review) “Abraham Verghese has always written with grace, precision and feeling [but] he’s topped himself with Cutting for Stone …. A vastly entertaining and enlightening book.” — Tracy Kid
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Bookclub Guide

1. Abraham Verghese has said that his ambition in writing Cutting for Stone was to "tell a great story, an old-fashioned, truth-telling story." In what ways is Cutting for Stone an old-fashioned story-and what does it share with the great novels of the nineteenth century? What essential human truths does it convey?

2. What does Cutting for Stone reveal about the emotional lives of doctors? Contrast the attitudes of Hema, Ghosh, Marion, Shiva, and Thomas Stone toward their work. What draws each of them to the practice of medicine? How are they affected, emotionally and otherwise, by the work they do?

3. Marion observes that in Ethiopia, patients assume that all illnesses are fatal and that death is expected, but in America, news of having a fatal illness "always seemed to come as a surprise, as if we took it for granted that we were immortal" (p. 396). What other important differences does Cutting for Stone reveal about the way illness is viewed and treated in Ethiopia and in the United States? To what extent are these differences reflected in the split between poor hospitals, like the one in the Bronx where Marion works, and rich hospitals like the one in Boston where his father works?

4. In the novel, Thomas Stone asks, "What treatment in an emergency is administered by ear?" The correct answer is "Words of comfort." How does this moment encapsulate the book''s surprising take on medicine? Have your experiences with doctors and hospitals held this to be true? Why or why not? What does Cutting for Stone tell us about the roles of compassion, faith, and hope in medicine?

5. There are a number of dramatic scenes on operating tables in Cutting for Stone: the twins'' births, Thomas Stone amputating his own finger, Ghosh untwisting Colonel Mebratu''s volvulus, the liver transplant, etc. How does Verghese use medical detail to create tension and surprise? What do his depictions of dramatic surgeries share with film and television hospital dramas - and yet how are they different?

6. Marion suffers a series of painful betrayals - by his father, by Shiva, and by Genet. To what degree is he able, by the end of the novel, to forgive them?

7. To what extent does the story of Thomas Stone''s childhood soften Marion''s judgment of him? How does Thomas''s suffering as a child, the illness of his parents, and his own illness help to explain why he abandons Shiva and Marion at their birth? How should Thomas finally be judged?

8. In what important ways does Marion come to resemble his father, although he grows up without him? How does Marion grow and change over the course of the novel?

9. A passionate, unique love affair sets Cutting for Stone in motion, and yet this romance remains a mystery - even to the key players - until the very conclusion of the novel. How does the relationship between Sister Mary Joseph Praise and Thomas Stone affect the lives of Shiva and Marion, Hema and Ghosh, Matron and everyone else at Missing? What do you think Verghese is trying to say about the nature of love and loss?

10. What do Hema, Matron, Rosina, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, Genet, and Tsige - as well as the many women who come to Missing seeking medical treatment - reveal about what life is like for women in Ethiopia?

11. Addis Ababa is at once a cosmopolitan city thrumming with life and the center of a dictatorship rife with conflict. How do the influences of Ethiopia''s various rulers - England, Italy, Emperor Selassie - reveal themselves in day-to-day life? How does growing up there affect Marion''s and Shiva''s worldviews?

12. As Ghosh nears death, Marion comments that the man who raised him had no worries or regrets, that "there was no restitution he needed to make, no moment he failed to seize" (p. 346). What is the key to Ghosh''s contentment? What makes him such a good father, doctor, and teacher? What wisdom does he impart to Marion?

13. Although it''s also a play on the surname of the characters, the title Cutting for Stone comes from a line in the Hippocratic Oath: "I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art." Verghese has said that this line comes from ancient times, when bladder stones were epidemic and painful: "There were itinerant stone cutters - lithologists - who could cut into either the bladder or the perineum and get the stone out, but because they cleaned the knife by wiping their blood-stiffened surgical aprons, patients usually died of infection the next day." How does this line resonate for the doctors in the novel?

14. Almost all of the characters in Cutting for Stone are living in some sort of exile, self-imposed or forced, from their home country - Hema and Ghosh from India, Marion from Ethiopia, Thomas from India and then Ethiopia. Verghese is of Indian descent but was born and raised in Ethiopia, went to medical school in India, and has lived and worked in the United States for many years. What do you think this novel says about exile and the immigrant experience? How does exile change these characters, and what do they find themselves missing the most about home?

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