Cutting for Stone

I haven’t slept well for the last several days, mostly because I was up until way too late reading Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. The book has been a best-seller for several weeks, so I’m certainly not the first person to love it. But in a literary landscape where a glut of titles involve vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, time-travelers, or people who commune with the dead, Cutting for Stone is a welcome story about people who are fascinating for what they do in the real world with nothing but human minds and bodies. Characters are drawn with such skill that every person seems to step off the page.

Verghese is a magical writer with the soul of a poet, and the story he tells is one of a kind. Identical twins whose birth itself is improbable grow up in a hospital in Ethopia during the reign of Ras Tefari, who came to be revered and then feared as Haile Selassie. One twin ends up a skilled surgeon in the United States, the other twin remains in Ethopia to found a hospital devoted to women who suffer from a terrible gynecological condition all too common among the poor and medically neglected. But when one twin’s life is in danger, the two are reunited as only identical twins can be, with an awareness that they are truly one. This is a book I’ll read more than once.

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