When we were out in New York a couple months ago my brother’s girlfriend passed along an incredible read. Abraham Verghese’s book, Cutting for Stone, had recently accompanied her on a trip to Thailand. Not only did she love it, but so did a whole bunch of her friends and family. The copy I took home with me has now been read in Massachusetts, California, New York, Utah, and a few stops between NYC and Thailand. The only thing better than reading a great book is reading the same weathered and loved copy that has been in the hands of friends.
The story takes place primarily in Ethiopia, but has a collection of characters from all over the world. The book works through three generations to fully explain the life and circumstances of Marion Stone, one half of a set of boy twins born to an Indian nun and an English doctor. Met with tragedy as they came into the world, the twins are raised by surrogate parents who teach them the art of medicine, the honor of family, and the importance of hard work. Though they share a closeness in childhood and adolescent years, a series of poignent events pushes them in different directions. They are ultimately separated when Marion is wrongfully suspected of supporting a rebel group and forced to flee Ethiopia for exile in America.
From there the story unfolds in a circular motion, connecting the beginning to end. Marion confronts the father that abandoned him at his birth, the girl that nearly destroyed his life, the actions of a brother who betrayed him, and a career that will ultimately lead him back to his origins in Ethiopia.
The story is vividly told with a background of culture, medicine, and history. Each character is distinct and impressive. Love, betrayal, and forgiveness are key themes woven throughout the story. At 667 pages of small font, Cutting for Stone is a longer read, but definitely worth the time.