Cutting for Stone, Week in Books #34

Cutting for Stone is a great book, but I very nearly put it down for good after the first 237 pages.

The book tells the story of a man born in unusual circumstances to an Indian mother and English father, then raised in Ethiopia during a period of political and cultural change, and who grows to be a very fine surgeon in an inner city hospital in America.  The book is rich and detailed, but it would have been much better had the first 237 pages been condensed to about 75 pages.  The beginning meanders and takes unneccesary tangents and presents far too many superflous threads.

If you can get through the first section without getting too weirded out or bored, the remaining 400 pages or so are really great.  I loved the way Verghese made Ethiopia come alive in the text, and his descriptions of Ethiopian food particularly are mouth-watering (if your only exposure to Ethiopian food is that joke in When Harry Met Sally, you need to get out there and try some) and left me craving injera (it’s like a cross between sourdough and pita and it’s amazing).  Moreover, you can tell that Verghese is a physician, because his passion for medicine will make you wish you were a doctor.  I love books that make me completely transported into someone else’s calling like that.  Verghese also handled the political situation in Ethiopia with a balanced and insightful touch.

I do think Cutting for Stone is a good read, but if you pick it up just be aware that the beginning may feel boggy and either skim or just press on.  There are enough good tidbits and necessary plot information interspersed in those 237 pages that you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your life, especially after you finish the rest of the book.

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2 thoughts on “Cutting for Stone, Week in Books #34

  1. Speaking of memoir-ish books…. You might see if your library has A Vineyard in Tuscany by Ferenc Mate. I’m not even interested in wine, but that was the most well-written of 60 books read so far this year. He definitely has a knack for words; as a fellow writer I think you’d appreciate it. I got in line for it on paperbackswap because it’s the kind of book you can re-read for the words, even if you still remember the story. 🙂

    (It’s mildly PG but I didn’t find it offensive.)

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