Cutting For Stone

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Cutting For Stone

by Abraham Verghese

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

Cutting For Stone is rated 4.5526 out of 5 by 38.
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, 7.97 × 5.23 × 1.16 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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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cutting for Stone: Beautiful! This is one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read! A must read. An absolute treasure and I will definitely read this novel again and again. It is a story of family, faith, the power of love and human spirit..authentic, heart wrenching, exquisite!!
Date published: 2014-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cutting for Stone What a wonderful story. Half way through the book and have difficulty closing the book for sleep time. Being a twin myself it brings back memories of a very close bond that has matured and become quite special. The "chemistry" of the growing up of the twins  is captured very well in Cutting for Stone. The story is both entertaining and enlightening. It is a pleasure reading a very well written book. I look forward to the next book written by Verghese.
Date published: 2013-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fantastic read!! This is an emotional saga which I could not put down. Twins Marion and Shiva are born conjoined at birth. Their mother dies during childbirth and their father abandons them. Marion and Shiva are separated and raised by Indian doctors who are practicing in a mission hospital in Ethiopia. Verghese spins an amazing story of these twins. This story involves the culture of Ethiopia and India, the medical problems of an African hospital, revolution, and the emotional development and interaction of the twins. Verghese has written an elegant tale which has many many layers and leaves the reader still thinking several days later. I read this for my book club. What a wonderful book to discuss!
Date published: 2012-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully written, medically authentic, memorable characters In my rather long life I have read scores of "medical" novels and stories -- creative fiction by doctors, about doctors. One or two helped to reinforce my schoolboy decision 75 years ago to become a doctor myself. Several deserve to be called Literature. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is literature. Even before I finished reading it, I elevated it to the highest pinnacle among literary works by and about doctors and matters medical. It's an intricately plotted work set mainly in Addis Ababa then in New York about complex, believable characters, doctors who were well trained in Madras or Edinburgh, and found their way to Addis Ababa, where the next generation -- offspring of two characters who disappear early from the scene, one of them dead, but leaving indelible imprints on the narrator and his twin brother - grow up. There are graphic but not stomach-churning accounts of surgical and obstetric procedures, and vivid descriptions of everyday life in the exotic setting of Addis Ababa. It's colourful, gripping, realistic with a hint of magic realism, wise, and beautifully written. Verghese has written short stories and articles for New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and other magazines, and two previous books, one of which I've read, about his experience with HIV/AIDS in a small Tennesee city when he was young doctor, and saw how this disease exposed the local people's weaknesses and strengths. He is a professor of medicine and medical humanities at Stanford University school of medicine where he teaches students (I envy those students!) and is able to pursue his career as a writer. This is a book to read, to own and reread. It isn't often that a book and its characters continue to haunt my consciousness after I've finished the final chapter. Of course it's the reason some books become classics, the people who inhabit the book really seem to exist. They are multifaceted. Think of Leopold Bloom, Anna and Vronsky, Elizabeth Bennet, Billy Prior, Shakespeare's vividly realized Rosiland, Lear, and a host of others; Charles Dickens's crowded city of all kinds of folk with oddly apt names like Scrooge and Pickwick, recall Huckleberry Finn, and many others who come to life on the page. It's one reason these works are classics. This is another to add to the list. Long after I finished reading it, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, Marion Stone, his twin brother Shiva, Ghosh the dedicated internal medicine specialist turned surgeon, Hema, Genet, and others who inhabit Cutting for Stone, live on in my head. The book ends in high drama close to melodrama and a surgical feat that strains credibility but is nonetheless possible, maybe has even been performed by now; by the time you get to the end you can believe it really happened, feel for the twin who lived and the enigmatic one who did not. That's why I think this book will become a classic; and I hope Abraham Verghese will write more like this one. John M Last, MD, Ottawa, Canada
Date published: 2012-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best read of the year! Tell your friends. This book gives you everything. Excellent literary writing and a page turner if a story. As it is written by a well educated author, I found his knowledge of facts about the medical system in Africa and his knowledge of people in general made this the best read I have had in at least the past year. A real page turner - don't give up after 30 pages - keep going.
Date published: 2012-07-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from okay Although I liked some of the basic story lline, I did not overly care for the author's style and somewhat vulgar descriptions. It also seemed to lag in the middle. Did have some interesting history and relevant issues though.
Date published: 2012-04-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read A book about power,intimacy,relationships and overall doing the right thing. Ghosh and Hema raise new born twins (Marion, Shiva) as their own. Lots of twists and turns. The story focuses mainly on Marion and his life once he is exiled to America.
Date published: 2012-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow - What a Story I devoured this book - so well written. Loved the characters and learned lots about Ethiopia and even India in the reading!
Date published: 2012-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! I loved everything about this book. The characters are beautifully developed and the story is compelling. One of those books that you don't want to end because you feel so oddly attached to the lovely, flawed characters.
Date published: 2012-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gorgeous Read This is a must read for anyone who likes great read like the "Power of One" by Bryce Courtenay. This book has everything: fantastic, strong, multidimensional characters, interesting information about medical field, the political turmoil of Ethiopia and tight story line.
Date published: 2012-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from incredible, a masterpiece...a real author!!!! One of the best books that I have read in years...so much attention to detail, characters so well defined...could not put it down as I felt that I was actually part of the scenery...so vivid was the story... This would make an absolutely beautiful movie. Cannot wait to read the author's other books!!!
Date published: 2011-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cutting For Stone Awesome book! Couldn't put it down. To sum up, it is a book about people, specifically two twin brothers. It follows them through their life, telling a complex and intriguing tale. There aren't any supernatural elements in it and I can see this novel being one that anyone would enjoy.
Date published: 2011-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A real page-turner Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Sweeping family saga, interesting medical insight, as well as an historical account of Ethopian history in the 20th century.
Date published: 2011-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Best book I have read in a long time, maybe even my new favourite. Recommend it to anyone in the medical profession especially.
Date published: 2011-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous! Best book I have read in years. Loved every minute of it. Going to check out Verghese's other 2 books. Being an O.R. nurse I loved all the surgical parts of the book. I did not want it to end.
Date published: 2011-07-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Cutting for Stone I found this book to be in the same format as other tragic love stories. The forbidden love between the amazing doctor and the nun-nurse has been done in so many other formats that it does get tedious. And of course the sin that cannot be hidden once the babies appear. Thomas Stone is an outstanding surgeon with deep emotional scars from childhood that inhibit him from developing any normal relationship with another human being. Along comes Mary the Nun and she is also scarred but she helps Thomas Stone and dedicates her life to standing by his side while he performs surgery. It is not until her life is ebbed out of her that Thomas comes to realization that he loves Mary beyond all else. Her life is given in the birth of her twin sons, whom Thomas Stone rejects and leaves behind as he tries to run from his grief...due to the death of Mary. The twin boys Marion and Shiva are raised by Hema and Ghosh who worked with Thomas Stone. They consider the boys to be theirs and raise them as a family. Life ensues and living in Ethiopia life is full of conflict and struggles. Marion and Shiva are not left clean in their pursuit of adulthood and education. They both end up as doctors, but so different from each other. The ending is not surprising, tragic as expected, with martyrdom abound. I found the story tedious and I really did not like any of the characters, they all were so unlikable. The medical information was interesting, but not intriguing enough to make this an outstanding read that I was hoping for.
Date published: 2011-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wonderful I am only half way through and can't put it down! Beautifully written! I must get others by the same author as this is a real winner. Now I must go back to my book.
Date published: 2011-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FANTASTIC One of the best books I have read in the last 5 years. Wonderful story, excellent character development and beautifully written. If you enjoy fiction and well written literature, a must read.
Date published: 2011-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down... This book really pulled me in...the characters and the plot development was incredible. The story was so believable and well researched...loved it.
Date published: 2011-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredibly poignant - loved every page! Sometimes, not often, you find a book that you love so much, you hate to come to the last page. "Cutting For Stone" is just such a book. The story is incredibly touching and well crafted. I am in awe of Mr. Verghese's ability to create characters that will remain with you for a very long time. Heartbreaking and yet heartwarming at the same time, this is for me, one of my favourite books. A definite must read.
Date published: 2011-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not finished it yet ---- but loving it. Anyone interested in medicine, surgery, Africa, India, twins, parents, religion, or life in general, will love this book!
Date published: 2011-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Read I highly recommend this book. You get a sense of the characters inner working and uniqueness. The story is imaginative, entertaining, full of development and rich descriptions inspiring visual images for the reader. Even though I wish the author gave more insight into some of the female characters, particularly Genet or Rosina, the theme of men’s relationship to family, especially between fathers and sons is highly emotional, heartbreaking and redemptive. Of course this is one of many themes that make this book worth reading including colonialism, transformation, forgiveness and home. Beautiful book, with a little patience in the beginning I was gratefully hooked.
Date published: 2011-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply beautiful Verghese introduces us to Marion and Shiva, twins born in tragic circumstances that follow them the rest of their lives. "Cutting for Stone" is an incredible story of personal discovery, with mystical Ethiopia at heart of the story. The book was a bit on the long side, but strangely, I can't say what part I would have cut out.
Date published: 2011-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping and Unforgettable This book was one my book club chose. I had not heard of it before but am delighted I was introduced to it! I enjoyed Abraham Verghese's description of medical issues/procedures and the compassion he gave his characters. I would recommend this to anyone who likes to be taken away to new experiences and settings.
Date published: 2010-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perhaps the Best Book I've read this year. I read this book several months ago, and yet it still stays with. There is so much to the plot - from Ethopia to the USA . It's an amazing story of two twins born and yet so unlike. The character development was fabulous. I could not put this wonderful book down. I can't recommend it enough. It is very readable - I highly recommend this wonderful story.
Date published: 2010-08-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Did I read the wrong book???? I really wanted to enjoy this book as I paid hardcover money to get it. This book started out promising and quickly went downhill. Too much medical jargon and just not enough interest to keep me reading. I did finish the book to see if it improved but still a 1 star(did I read a different book because I couldn't give it 4 stars???). I did learn something from this book and that was to always keep your receipt with Heathers picks so I can return it if you hate it.
Date published: 2010-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delicious This is one of the best books I had ever had the pleasure to read. It is very discriptive and only after a couple of pages I'd stop to savor the words I'd just read just like a delicious feast. I found the character developement amazing, the history and story line interesting, a very, very good read.
Date published: 2010-07-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from what am I missing I only bought this book after reading many, many reviews. I was very disappointed. I thought it would get better but I still couldn't get into it after I was half way through. Did I miss something? The writing was too descriptive and it was hard to follow the many characters that were in the novel. I don't reccommend this book. I wish I had bought it from Chapters so I could return it (it's a Heather's Pick) I wish I could get my money back.
Date published: 2010-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful read!!! This is Abraham Verghese's first novel. I found it to be very interesting as it was about a set of twins born and orphaned in Africa. One twin has to flee his homeland making his way to America. This is a family story about doctors and two very different countries Africa and America. A excellent read!!!
Date published: 2009-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One for sharing I have to say that I read a lot of books and this is one of the best. Character development is really what distinguishes this book from others. I am not an emotional person but this book moved me to tears in a couple of chapters. The way that it draws you in to the lives of the characters is its most compelling attribute. The story line is above average; the language is only average; the setting is magnificent. Overall, I recommend it very highly.
Date published: 2009-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An engrossing page turner! Verghese is an amazing story-teller. He weaves an incredible journey for all of his main characters. He leaves no stone unturned. Do not be intimidated by the size of this book. It is all meat and no filler.
Date published: 2009-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Amazing Journey I loved this book and thankyou Heather for your recommendation.This novel is so well written, you will have it in your hands every spare minute. It is a gripping, epic story spanning over several decades, from Ethiopia to the states and back to Ethiopia. You will love the way the characters grow, you will learn about a culture very foreign to us, you will gain medical knowledge (though I don't think this was his intent) and last you really understand family bonding and love. Everyone already knows the basic plot, but let me say that around that plot is so much more and it is not all pretty. but it certainly is riveting, Abraham Verghese has written an excellent novel and I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2009-07-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Cutting for Stone A long, well-written epic saga about medicine, ethiopia, conjoined twins, nuns, hospitals, surgeries, and much, much more. I consider this to be a challenging read but I have tremendous respect for the author. I got a lot out of this novel. The novel is about Marion and Shiva stone- twin brothers. Their mother was a nun and their father wa a surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Their mother passed away giving birth to them and their father disappeared immediately. The story tells us detailed descriptions of the boys growing up in Ethiopia- as it sits on the brink of revolution. When Marion (the narrator) finishes medical school, he leaves Ethiopia- he has no choice. He makes his way to New York where he interns at a poor, underfunded hospital. His past in Ethiopia comes back to him in the form of his childhood love Gennet. The next events that transpire forces him into having his twin brother work with his long-lost father to save Marion's life.
Date published: 2009-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unbelievably interesting! Having lived through the Haile Selassie era here in Canada where some of his relatives ended up being placed to continue their schooling, I am enjoying this book so much. I chose this book because it was on the "Heather's Picks" list and so far each selection of hers that I purchase has been "right on". I knew nothing about Ethiopia before reading this book. It's an interesting history lesson!
Date published: 2009-04-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful a thoroughly engaging, emotional journey.
Date published: 2009-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What do you read after this? Rarely do extraordinary works like this come about. I finished this book and am still haunted by a cast of characters I feel I've known a lifetime. I have never before met characters who now are as vividly alive in my mind as any real individuals who populate my world. Rich, poignant, spellbinding and meticulously written, this story is quietly and elegantly told. Certainly one of the best epic tales I've read in the last decade. It will grab you from the first page and not let go until the last word. Thank you Mr Verghese - it has been a pleasure and privilege to read this book. If I could rate it higher than five stars I would.
Date published: 2009-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Breathtaking Family Saga 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.
Date published: 2009-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunning! This epic family saga spans through the 1950s to present time and travels from Ethiopia to America and back again. A brilliant tale that starts off with an Indian nun working as a nurse in Ethiopia surprisingly going into labour with complications. Her twin sons are delivered alive but she dies on the table and the white doctor who is assumed to be the father refuses to look at the boys and leaves the Mission Hospital never to return again. This, then, is the story of the twins, Marion and Shiva, told through the eyes of Marion, the first born. The story of how they were as one person together until the day that betrayal over a woman tore them apart. An intense story that centres around medicine as the doctors and nurses try to help the poor of Ethiopia but also spans the history of this country from an autonomous monarchy through two coups, and a Marxist regime. An absolutely brilliant book that I could not put down. Once I started I kept on reading like there was no tomorrow. The characters that populate this book are immensely genuine and eclectic from the twins, to their adoptive doctor parents, to the servants, the Matron and finally the collection of Indian doctors working together in America. A loving family and community from a mixture of cultures (white, Indian and Ethiopian) that combine Catholicism with Hinduism, live together through shocking event after shocking event. A real page turner. An epic story that is a joy to read. An unfamiliar setting and a focus on medicine both captivated me and a truly heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal that continues to surprise you at every turn. Truly wonderful, this is a book that will stay with me. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2009-02-23

– More About This Product –

Cutting For Stone

by Abraham Verghese

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 688 pages, 7.97 × 5.23 × 1.16 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?