Sunday, June 6, 2010

The many manifestations of love

Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese

Marion and Shiva Stone are identical twin boys born under unique circumstances in Ethiopia: their mother is an Indian nun who dies in childbirth, their father is a skilled English surgeon who disappears after their birth, they are slightly conjoined at the head, and then they are raised at Missing Hospital in Ethiopia by surgeons. Their youth is full of ups-and-downs, but all the while they are surrounded by family, until a single event threatens to change everything they have known. This novel tells the story of their life through Marion's POV as he struggles with family, love, and career.

This was a beautifully written novel that is ultimately about love: silent love that is bottled up inside and never expressed because of fear; love that is expressed and magically, sometimes seemingly against all odds, lasts a lifetime; love between family members, a family that is unconventional but close; unrequited love that threatens to ruin a life; love between brothers, with the special link of being identical twins; and love for a career. The unique cast of characters were genuine and I was eager to learn more about each and every one of them, even the ones that I disliked. I greatly enjoyed the path of Marion's journey and the places (figuratively and literally) where he lives, each place providing a version of a family including father-figures that shape his life.

The lower than perfect rating is due to one aspect only: the beginning was unbelievably slow! Looking back, I realize the author wanted to give us a rich background for several of the main characters so we could better understand the life-changing decisions each of them made, but he did it in a very dry and unnecessarily long manner. Once I got into the meat of the story, I appreciated the background he provided but I remain bitter on how it was delivered - a distracting blemish on the surface of an otherwise flawless face. Cutting For Stone also contained an abundance of medical/surgical descriptions, which didn't bother me, I actually found it very interesting, but be warned.

If you can make it though the first 150 pages or so then you will be rewarded with a beautiful, heart-felt, and moving story.

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