Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Epic Novel

Finished June 2
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, read by Sunil Malhotta
This is a long novel (19 CDs in audio) but a gripping one. We are told the story of Marion and Shiva Stone, identical twins, conjoined at birth, whose mother died at their birth. The twins were unexpected to everyone else at the mission hospital in Ethiopia. Their mother, a nun from India, worked there assisting the surgeon, their father. He was so shocked and devasted by the incidents surrounding their birth that he ran away.
Taking us from the 1950's into the 21st century, this story follows Marion's life as he looks back on his parents lives, on the lives of his adopted parents, also doctors at the mission hospital, to his own childhood and youth growing up in Addis Ababa. Marion follows in his parents footsteps, becoming a surgeon himself, and events force him to flee Ethiopia during its civil war and take refuge in Kenya and then in the United States, where he continues his medical training.
The author is himself a doctor and this knowledge is evident in the text. While there is a lot of medical information, it never seemed anything but natural to me, a necessary part of the story.
The best thing about this novel to me was the sense of place that is made so clear of this small mission hospital in Addis Ababa. From the mangled name of the hospital (Missing Hospital) to the staff (the priest gatekeeper and the administrative Mother Superior to name just two) one is immersed in the surroundings of the young boys as they grow up in this wonderful atmosphere.
This novel just flows, and I was enchanted by the wonderful story as well as by the narrator's voice, perfectly suited for the tale. While a long novel, it never felt like too much, and though the story drew us backward and forward through the lives of various characters, it never jarred.
A wonderful book that I will recommend highly.

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