Book Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

So remember how I was going to read The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier last week? That didn’t happen. I picked up this book on my e-reader for a few hours one day when I didn’t have The Illumination handy and I got completely sucked in and had to finish the book.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is set mostly in Ethiopia in an underfunded, mostly charity hospital that everyone calls Missing. The book definitely tells the story of lives, how they intermingle, the effects of different people’s choices on the others, but I would have to say that the main characters are Marion and Shiva Stone.

Marion and Shiva Stone are identical twins born in Missing hospital, seemingly to Missing’s only surgeon, Thomas Stone and his surgical assistant Sister Mary Joseph Praise although no one is sure how this has came about. Sister Mary Joseph Praise has hidden her pregnancy from everyone and it isn’t until she is found sickly and pale in her room that her secret is discovered. She is rushed to the surgical theater where after complications, her twins Marion and Shiva are born and Sister Mary Joseph Praise passes away. This is the start of Marion and Shiva’s incredible lives.

The book follows Marion and Shiva, now basically orphans since their mother’s death and their father’s abandonment. But some of Missing’s other faithful employees take it upon themselves to raise Marion and Shiva as their own. We learn about Ethiopia, underfunded medical care, and the coups that occur in the boy’s life. We follow them on their adventures, learning the dangers of living in this area and we discover with them the marvels of medicine, and how it’s study can be a treatment itself.

A wonderful book, definitely a sweeping saga that takes many twists in its 600 pages (in ebook format). It does have some graphic scenes, such as the description of fistulas, a condition that occurs in females who are married off young, become pregnant and then have complications with pregnancy due to their body being too immature to complete the birthing process. Descriptions of other diseases and surgeries are also found through out.

I loved this book, I have a feeling its going to be one that I recommend to a lot of people and will talk about to everyone. I also think it is a great read for anyone in the medical or public health field or anyone interested in such topics.

If you’ve been on the fence or had it on your to read shelf forever pick it up, you won’t be disappointed.

Leave a comment


  1. This is high on my pile and suggested for a book club in Jan/Feb, so I can’t wait to read it.
    I listened to this interesting interview recently in anticipation of reading it, about his inspiration for writing the book.

  2. Great book. I also highly recommend his two memoirs: The Tennis Partner and My Own Country. Beautifully written.

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