I finished Cutting for Stone, and I’m not sure what to think of it. Back in college, I read Verghese’s book, My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story, and found it interesting, so back in 2009, when Cutting for Stone was released to positive reviews, I decided to read it, but with one thing and another didn’t open the book until this winter. (Reading and knitting is all winter is good for.)
Since Verghese is a medical doctor, it’s not surprising that his descriptions of illness, surgery, and even the doctor-patient relationship are rich and detailed. (So detailed that one user on Goodreads suggested the squeamish should skip passages.) Confession: I did skip three pages, but they were not about medical procedures but about puppies.
The invocation of Ethiopian culture, even from the perspective of the sheltered Missing Hospital, was interesting to me, as was the backdrop of Ethiopian politics and the Eritrean resistance. My favorite characters, and I thought the characters most vividly drawn, were Hema and Ghosh. More than once during the novel, I couldn’t keep from tearing up.
For the most part then, I thought this was a great novel. At the same time, I felt a little bit like the king in Amadeus who reacts to Mozart’s opera premier with the observation, “There were too many notes.” The vividness Verghese brought to descriptions of the body, however, were not applied to the heart. Marion, the narrator, Shiva, his twin, and Gerte, their almost-sister, were not as fully drawn as I would like, especially in comparison to the sometimes plodding exposition. The ending didn’t completely satisfy me, though I’m not sure what I would have wanted instead.
Despite the criticisms, I think this is a book worth reading, and I recommend it.
On another note – what is it with Indian authors and twins? I don’t want to say what happened in Cutting for Stone, but it reminded me of another novel of twins, The God of Small Things, the ending of which disturbs me to this day.