Friday, May 14, 2010

Review: Cutting for Stone

Summary: Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death 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.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined. -- Vintage

Many of you already know that my book club read CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghese this month. I absolutely adored this book and I just know it's going to be one of my favorites for 2010. I can't rave enough about this novel. The writing was spectacular, but the story was also incredible. I truly was blown away by Mr. Verghese's novel.

Often times when I love a book like CUTTING FOR STONE, I find it difficult to write my review. On one hand, I don't want to set readers' expectations too high because they might end up disappointed. But on the other hand, I really think this book is a must read! I can safely say this though. Based on my book club's experience, even if you aren't as passionate about this book as I am, you still will appreciate this read.

I was expecting a good book, but I admit that I'm a little surprised by just how much I adored this novel. Truth be told, I did have a little bit of a hard time getting into the novel. The first 150 pages or so (Part 1 of the book) were extremely descriptive. I realize that Mr. Verghese was setting up the story and the characters, but I was slightly concerned that I wasn't going to be able to really "get into" the story. And since CUTTING FOR STONE is a pretty long book (over 650 pages), I thought it might be a long read. However, once I got into this story, I was absolutely hooked. In fact, I read 500 pages in one day -- it's that good! I'm not sure if it was a matter of me getting used to his writing or that the story really took off or a mixture of both, but I couldn't put this book down.

I absolutely loved the characters in this novel. By that I don't mean that I loved every last one of them as people (although there were quite a few that I liked a great deal). I mean that they were so well developed and so real. The characters were all multi-dimensional and I felt as if I got to know and understand each one of them very well. What I really appreciated was how complex each character was. All of them had flaws (and some had major flaws) but they were all designed to be believable.

Another thing I really appreciated about CUTTING FOR STONE was the amount of history incorporated into the story. There is no doubt that I'm lacking in historical knowledge, especially about the country of Ethiopia. But I found the history aspects of this novel to be fascinating. I think Mr. Verghese did an amazing job of including not only the parts about Ethiopia's revolution, but also about the history of medical breakthroughs.

There are so many things about this novel that make it so good. But I truly think Mr. Verghese's writing is key. I was just so impressed with Mr. Verghese's writing style that I immediately wanted to get my hands on everything and anything he's ever written. His descriptions are incredible -- from the setting to the characters to the medical procedures. I had absolutely no problem picturing everything that occurred in this story. As I read this book, it was almost as if a movie were running through my head. And that rarely happens for me in a book this involved.

This novel is an absolutely gem. I can not get over how well Mr. Verghese incorporated so many wonderful themes and symbols into this novel. The references were subtle, yet extremely effective. I also thought he did an amazing job of bringing the many characters and storylines full circle. I have no idea how he managed to do all of this so well, but I think his writing is nothing short of genius!

CUTTING FOR STONE is a perfect book club selection despite its length. Almost all of our group finished the book and we usually read novels that are half this long. There is an excellent reader's guide available which touches on many of the important themes I wanted to discuss (and actually some that I didn't even think of.) Some of the topics for discussion include the definition of family, love, betrayal, war, medicine/healing, brotherly love, jealousy, relationship between twins, grief, loss, abuse, sacrifice, and many, many more. Believe me that there won't be a lack of things to discuss from this novel.

Needless to say, I could go on and on about this book (just ask my book club.) I feel like I only touched the surface of all the incredible things about this novel, but I think it's best to leave the rest up to the reader. So please take my recommendation and read this novel!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I seem to recall that it was difficult to get into for me at first too. And yet the premise was so good, you wanted to know what was going to happen so you kept going. I also liked his writing a lot. I definitely want to check out his other books!

Beth F said...

When people were reviewing Cutting for Stone last year, I decided I wanted to read it too. I ended up getting the audio, which Jen (Devourer) said was good. Have I listened to even one second? No, of course not. I'm glad to see your review because it reminded me to read the novel already.

Amy said...

I'm so happy to see people reading and loving this book. I could not put it down when I read it last year. SO GOOD! Definitely a favorite. I love finding more converts to the love club for this one :)

bermudaonion said...

I've read several great reviews of this book, so I really want to read it. I have to admit that I'm a little bit intimidated by it for some reason. I need to get over that and read it!

Anonymous said...

I'm with BermudaOnion on this one-- I've heard nothing but wonderful things about this one, but for some reason, I'm intimidated by it. I need to just pick it up and read it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Julie, for putting into words so many of my feelings about CUTTING FOR STONE. My book group will discuss it this coming Tuesday afternoon and I'll share their reactions on my blog after that. This is an incredibly thought provoking read for me. I did not get through it quickly, not because I wasn't enjoying it, but I think I wanted to prolong the experience.

For those of your readers who are reluctant to try it or intimidated, I say, just try it. Seriously. I'm not sure that it will resonate with every reader, but my goodness, this man can write!

Sandy Nawrot said...

500 pages in one day? What the hell? I couldn't do that if I tried! I need to make an effort to read this book. I think maybe the way for me to go would be to get the audio. Long books drag me down. But 30 disc audios? No problem. I don't want to miss out on a gem.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Yep, this is one I REALLY need to get to one of these days!!

Meghan said...

Just got this one out of the library and now I can't wait to read it! I read the first page but have too much else to read right now - it will be next up as soon as I can manage!

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

Jenny Girl said...

hmmm, you certainly make a convincing case, but the first 150 is hard to get into....I'm not sure if I have that kind of patience. However, if I see it at the library, I may pick it up. Thanks Julie :)

Mary said...

Thanks for the review! I have it on my Kindle but haven't started it yet, I'm looking forward to it now.

Staci said...

I listened to the version and it was excellent. The narration was superb!