Cutting for Stone
A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel — an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics — their passion for the same woman — that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him — nearly destroying him — Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.
An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.
From the Hardcover edition.
READ AN EXCERPT
After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954. We took our first breaths at an elevation of eight thousand feet in the thin air of Addis Ababa, capital city of...
1. Abraham Verghese has said that his ambition in writing Cutting for Stone was to “tell a great story, an old-fashioned, truth-telling story.” In what ways is Cutting for Stone an old-fashioned story-and what does it share with the great novels of the nineteenth century? What essential human...
— Ann Packer
“The medical background is fascinating as the author delves into fairly technical areas of human anatomy and surgical procedure. This novel succeeds on many levels and is recommended for all collections.”
— Jim Coan, Library Journal
“Lauded for his sensitive memoir My Own Country, Verghese [now] turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations…. Verghese’s weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power of the best 19th-century novels.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)
“Abraham Verghese has always written with grace, precision and feeling [but] he’s topped himself with Cutting for Stone…. A vastly entertaining and enlightening book.”
— Tracy Kidder
“Absolutely fantastic! Holy cow, this book should be a huge success. It has everything: nuns, conjoined twins, civil war, and medicine — I was thinking that if Vikram Seth and Oliver Sacks were to collaborate on a four-hour episode of Grey’s Anatomy set in Africa, they could only hope to come up with something this moving and entertaining…. A marvelous novel!”
— Mark Salzman
“A marvelous novel. To read the first page of Cutting for Stone is to fall hopelessly under the spell of a masterful storyteller; and to try to close the book thereafter is to tear oneself away from the most vivid of dreams. Cutting for Stone is a gorgeous epic tale, suffused with unforgettable grace, humanity and compassion. Verghese breathes such life into his characters that there is a poignant familiarity to them, one that lingers and haunts long after the dream is over. Verghese has once again set the bar and redefined great medical literature — great literature period — for the rest of us.”
— Pauline W. Chen, author of Final Exam
“Abraham Verghese has long been one of my favorite authors. Yet, much as I admire his abundant gifts as both writer and physician, nothing could have prepared me for the great achievement of his first novel. Here is an extraordinary imagination, artfully shaped and forcefully developed, wholly given in service to a human story that is deeply moving, utterly gripping, and, indeed, unforgettable. Cutting for Stone is a work of literature as noble and dramatic as that ancient practice — medicine — that lies at the heart of this magnificent novel.”
— John Burnham Schwartz, author of The Commoner and Reservation Road
“Cutting for Stone is a tremendous accomplishment. The writing is vivid and thrilling, and the story completely absorbing, with its pregnant Indian nun, demon-ridden British surgeon, Siamese twins orphaned and severed at birth, and narrative strands stretching across four continents. A tale this wild is perilous, but there is not a false step anywhere. Accomplished non-fiction writers do not necessarily make accomplished novelists, but with Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese has become both. This is a novel sure to receive a great amount of critical attention — and attention from readers, too. I feel lucky to have gotten to read it.”
— Atul Gawande
“One of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.”
— Robert Bly
“Prepare to be transported entirely by one of the finest writers of our time. Cutting for Stone by the astonishingly gifted, deeply compassionate writer Abraham Verghese will wrap around you from the very first page and will not let you go.”
— Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Habibi
“Empathy for our frail human condition resonates throughout Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. By tracing the development of a narrator unlike any other in our literature — from his nearly mythic beginnings in Ethiopia to his immigrant life in contemporary America — Verghese demonstrates that the supreme skill of a physician lies not in his hands but in his heart. No contemporary novelist has written so well about the human body. Cutting for Stone is an amazing and moving achievement which reminds us of the miracle of being alive.”
— Tom Grimes, author of A Stone of the Heart
“Cutting for Stone is nothing short of masterful — a riveting tale of love, medicine, and the complex dynamic of twin brothers. It is beautifully conceived and written. The settings are wonderfully pictorial. There is no doubt in my mind that Cutting for Stone will endure in the permanent literature of our time.”
— Richard Selzer, surgeon and author of Letters to a Young Doctor
“Cutting the Stone is astonishing — the best book I have read in years. Verghese has a profound love and empathy for his characters and an extraordinary ability to bring his readers to worlds they could never imagine. Here at last is an epic — a great yarn of a novel — as ambitious in its reach as if from another century. Fathers, mothers, sons, children, love: what emotion is not examined? So many of us have been operating as if a sweeping narrative were as quaint as the buggy whip, and yet here comes Verghese to turn that assumption inside out. I wept through parts of this novel, as much for how we live lives of blindness, to ourselves and to others, until we are set on a course that cannot be altered, but just lived and then reconsidered. Bravo to Abraham Verghese!”
— Marie Brenner, author of Apples & Oranges
“A grand, exquisitely drawn story of twin brothers that ranges from birth to death, and from Ethiopia to America. In Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese shows us with brilliance and passion where healing comes from, and how we move through suffering to embrace life. In the hands of this compassionate doctor/writer, the details are indelible: A wonderful book.”
— Samuel Shem, author of The House of God and The Spirit of the Place
“Every once in a long while, you come upon a book that is truly extraordinary. Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone is one such book…. Brilliant … truly brilliant. ”
— Heather Reisman
From the Hardcover edition.