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Kirkus Reviews, from Literature Resource Center
"Verghese, Abraham: CUTTING FOR STONE"


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New York Times Sunday Book Review, "Doctors and Sons" by Erica Wagner

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Here's a longer interview done by Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly. Verghese goes on to discuss the multiple routes in medical ideology that he chose to weave into his story, such as the Stanford "Doctor-Patient Relationship". He was able to use these different views from around the medical community to construct this beautiful and memorable novel.

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I found this video interesting because it offers a city-wide tour/view of Addis Ababa, the city where most of the novel takes place (Missing Hospital). Looking at this now, it really helps to visualize many of the scenes that unfolded here.

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Here's a short video about Verghese's inspiration for the writing the novel. It is interesting to see that he not only incorporated personal experience into the novel, but he also did a large amount of research on the history of Ethiopia. Collectively, these literary influences allowed for a rich novel with a lot of emotion. This truly shows how gifted of a writer he is.

Now that we have reached the end of the novel, there is a lot that can be discussed. First of all, I would like to proclaim my love for its complex plot and characters, including the countless countless parallels and connections that popped up throughout the novel. When I first chose to read this book, I thought it was only going to be about medicine and procedures. I even doubted my ability to actually finish the whole book, because I was quickly losing interest. But, as I read further, the plot thickened and it became more than about medicine. It encompassed the beauty of memory, strength, identity, and "love".

I was pleasantly surprised by the ending and the quick turns of events. It was definitely a big surprise to find Marion moving to New York, contracting an STD, and eventually partaking in a risky liver transplant with his now deceased brother Shiva. The moment I found satisfying and hopeful was when Marion reconnected with his father Thomas Stone, fulfilling Ghosh's wish. He moved back to Ethiopia, and he found Sister Mary Joseph Praise's letter to Dr. Stone. The most intriguing line came with the final line of the novel, where it reads, "'Stone here', he said, his voice sounding so very close, as if he were there with me, as if nothing at all seperated our two worlds" (658). This is most memorable and tearjerking because for so long Marion and his father have been seperated an distant. But now, for the first time, they feel 'so very close'. The fact that Marion now realizes his mother's unknown love for Dr. Stone in the letter connects them and allows Marion to forgive Dr. Stone for leaving in shame, as Sister MJP would have done the same.

The novel is filled with some ridiculous parallels that I've recently come to realize. For one, there is this undying, back and forth connection between Marion and Shiva. Starting from their 'literal' connection at birth by the head, they follow a journey that seperates them slowly emotionally. This is best defined when Shiva decides to sleep with Genet, whom Marion had obvious deep feelings for. Yet, towards the end of the novel, when Marion contracts Hepatitis B, Shiva willingly offers part of his liver in order to save Marion. Shiva dies from medical complications, but Marion is saved! The procedure worked! They lie together on Shiva's deathbed, joined as they were at birth. Because Marion has a part of Shiva within him, he believes that he continues to carry on the connection they once had, saying, "we were still ShivaMarion. Shiva lives in me" (640). This seperation is healed, and they are joined once again. "One being at birth, rudely separated, we are one again" (640). This draws great parallel with Marion and Thomas Stone as well to the first quote I mentioned: the portion that indicates that "nothing at all separated our two worlds" (658). Here, I came to the realization that separation had a close relationship with abandonment. Marion and his father were separated for the longest time, as he was both metaphorically and physically separated with his brother Shiva. Now that Marion gets the opportunity to reconcile his differences with his brother and become one, Marion and his father do the same. They are both reunited at last! This disconnect all began in the beginning of the novel when Stone attempted to crush Shiva's skull. But, his attempts were squashed, and Marion saved his brother's life. Because of this, it was only right for them to reunite at the end, and that Stone was finally able to bring peace upon himself.

I LOVED this novel. I would recommend it to anyone who has the knack for good reads! The vivid imagery of delicious Ethiopian food, symbolism, and ridiculous medical conditions & surgeries are simply amazing. It creates something very memorable. The length and thickness of the novel would drive many people away, but I would simply reassure them that it is fantasically compelling and worth their while.

This third of the book did not progress the plot as much, but rather focused on the individual identities of Marion and Shiva as they became their own person. Previously, the twins were almost looked at as one character; everything that happened to one also happened to the other. Shiva also didn’t talk for a while which seemed as if Marion’s words also represented Shiva’s feelings.
This all changed when Gebrew was given orders to kill the new pups of their dog Koochooloo (who by the way was named by a PERSIAN dentist, koochooloo means little in Farsi). While Marion stood the “numb” (p. 247) with disbelief, it was Shiva who took action and tried to save the dogs, even though it was too late. And after many pages of silence, Shiva finally asks Hema, “Will you forget if someone kills me or Marion?”. Shiva’s stance shows the separation between the twins that has just been created. They are now individuals.
A lot of this part of the book has several events none of which except for the arrest of Ghosh seem to be of lasting importance. The water poisoning which was thought to have affected Hema quickly turns out to be a rumor, the rebels and their coup shoot characters, beat others, but none of it really seems to have an impact for longer than a chapter. However, the central idea of science being the root to everything in this story is again proven in these chapters. Marion’s love for Genet is discovered at the hospital, Shiva and Marion’s futures are determined when they walk throughout the clinic, but it’s when Marion is studying for his medical school exam that things really started to escalate. It’s through studying for his exams and when Rosina accuses Marion for taking Genet’s virginity that Marion realizes it could be “no one but (his) twin brother” (p.406). The realization that her daughter has had sex leads Rosalina to perform a “female circumcision” (p.410) which ends up becoming infected, almost taking Genet’s life. As Hema said, “Now it’s up to God” (p. 409).

Every book has chapter that make you cry. From the beginning of this last third of Cutting for Stone, I was a big snotty mess. Right off the bat, Ghosh DIES! However the manner in which he dies reiterates the theme that I have included in all of my responses: science unravels all. Marion finds out about Ghosh’s leukemia only after he is put through a test of his medical knowledge. Ghosh’s dying wish is for Marion to meet his birth father because “(Dr. Stone) was dedicated. His passion for was as if he came from another planet”. Once again, a dramatic detail is revealed through medicine. When Marion finally meets Dr. Stone, it is after Deepak has been complemented on his surgical techniques. When Marion reunites with Genet, it is because of her poor medical condition. This is also when Marion’s goal of saving himself for Genet finally comes true. What Marion didn’t know is that Genet had tuberculosis which then led to his own epidemic which required a liver transplant using Shiva as his donor. Once again, science leads to the dramatics of the end of the book when Shiva dies of a blood clot and once again, I used approximately 30 tissues attempting to keep my tears from getting on the page. Marion describes his moment before surgery and said “As he walked past Shiva’s chair, he clamped his hand on my brother’s shoulder, squeezed hard, and then he was gone” (p.621). Retrospectively, I realize that “he was gone” could refer to both Deepak and Shiva.
After completing the book, I can easily say that it is the most valuable book I have ever read. It has taught me the hidden moral struggles of being a doctor and the importance of leaving biases aside to treat patients. It has influenced what I view to be strengths and weaknesses in being a medical professional. It made me realize that medicine and biology are the root to every single event that happens in life even when it seems to have no scientific significance. Themes of forgiveness, mortality and identity stressed the real emotions of life which were amplified in this novel. We were asked in class to choose one novel to teach for all curriculum and without a doubt, this is the novel I would choose. It perfectly prepares students for unforeseen conflicts and topics which are traditionally untouched by common literature. Cutting for Stone prepares you for real life.

The end of Cutting for Stone ends in a plethora of plot twists that kept me glued to the book until the final words. This has become one of the better books I have sunk into.
The end of the book begins with Marion in New York. He finds his father very suddenly while operating. After spending some time with his father, Genet arrives at Marion’s door. Marion takes in Genet, and ultimately has intercourse with her. Marion gets Hepatitis B, and becomes very ill. Shiva volunteers to donate part of his own liver, as Marion’s was essentially obliterated. The transplant goes well, however a couple days later Shiva’s head fills with blood, destroying his brain. When Shiva died I felt terrible for Marion, as one could only imagine how hard it would be to lose a twin, someone you are so close to.
On a less plot driven level, Cutting for Stone also offered so many lessons, a main moral of the story being that you should cherish life. Living it to the best of your ability and with people that love you is important. Ghosh’s leukemia, Shiva’s unexpected death, and so much more all contributed to the point that life is far too short, and should be filled with what you love, and spent with those whom you care deeply for. “The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.” This quote shows how the novel places importance on life, and how the world often times is not always perfect and will not allow for the best of situations which is seen many times throughout the novel.
Cutting for Stone is an incredible novel. Through its outstanding imagery and unique characters it delivers a truly rich experience that I simply did not expect when I first opened the cover. With all the deaths and hardships endured, the moral of the story is that life is such a blessing and should be treated as such. It could end at any moment which is why we need to cherish every waking minute of it. I would highly recommend this book to friends, although some may shy away due to the length, I strongly suggest to look past it as it will provide a long lasting experience.

The first third of this book truly confirmed that it was the perfect choice for me. It has everything I could have ever wanted in a novel: strong female characters, drama, science, and just a bit of romance.
The strong female character of course is Hema, the ob/gyn who delivers the twins and then adopts them after their mother dies. Hema is possibly the most baddbutt female I have ever encountered in literature and the fact that I will never be able to meet her deeply upsets me. Nevertheless, Hema is courageous, she lives by her own rules: her badbutt-ness is best shown in her interaction with a pilot who faked an emergency landing for his own amusement. During this landing, a little boy tripped on Hema breaking his leg and Hema thought of her last moments and how she was about to die without children. To make the pilot pay for his damaged and disrespect, “Hemlatha’s fingers shot up the pilot’s shorts and locked around his testicles, only his underwear intervening”(p.79). She then has a staredown with the pilot whilst holding his testicles and says “Listen sweetie”(p.80). Those two words may be my favorite line any female has ever said in any book ever. Those two words just showed so much power and clearly proved the greater role of the women in this novel. But Hema’s not done yet, she continued to diagnose the man with syphilis and then say the second most awesome quote ever: “Are we talking as equals?...My life in your hands and now your family jewels in mine?”(p.80). She then forced the pilot to pay back the little boy and his family for breaking his leg and refund their tickets. If that is not the most inspiring character in all of literature then I don’t know what is.
The rest of the factors blend together: drama, science, and just a bit of romance. The science starts the romance which then results in drama. Sister Mary dying, Dr. Stone refusing to accept his children, these were all the result of science since Sister Mary and Dr. Stone were brought together by it, and Sister Mary’s death was a result of it. Hema and Ghosh’s relationship is also the result of their medical professions. Ghosh’s many personal problems, (such as visiting prostitutes) are always displayed as an effect to science (the burning he gets when he urinates).
This book has completely exceeded my expectations of it being “just a medical novel”. It has an intricate plot with several stories being explained at the same time with many main characters, but it still maintains clarity and makes each story and character important enough so the reader does not start to confuse them. On to the next third!
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