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BOOK REVIEW: CUTTING FOR STONE
BY ABRAHAM VERGHESE
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CUTTING FOR STONE is the best kind of book - well drawn, multi dimensional characters; intriguing historical background events; complex believable relationships; and a wonderfully told story. After MY OWN COUNTRY and THE TENNIS PARTNER, two excellent non fiction books, Verghese shows off impressive skills as a writer of fiction.
In the mid twentieth century, a small group of dedicated nurses and doctors struggle to keep a small Ethiopian hospital in the black and able to provide the most basic of medical services to those who appear at its doors. On a hot September afternoon, dramatic events unfold in the operating room of as one of the nurses goes into labor. Not only were her co-workers unaware of her pregnancy, the fact that she was a nun sends them into a type of astounded inertia and complicates the crisis of her situation. Eventually conjoined twin boys are born, survive the early moments of their life as the thin membrane joining their scalps is severed, and begin to breathe normally. Their mother dies on the table, and the chief surgeon, assumed to be the boys' father, disappears.
CUTTING FOR STONE follows the lives of the two young boys. They grow to maturity in the household of two of the staff members, with the political upheaval of Africa in the second half of the century as a background for their lives. Verghese keeps the reader thoroughly engrossed by revealing just enough as the story goes along, keeping some important facts in reserve.
A coming of age story; an unrequited love; exile; brotherly love; poignant estrangement; a search for a vanished father; political struggle; selfless dedication; powerful dedication to education and innovation; and other subsidiary themes inhabit the story - all skillfully woven together by Verghese. He includes a bibliography of books he consulted as he wrote, along with four or five pages of notes.
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