Thursday, January 27, 2022

Cutting for Stone



by Abraham Verghese

Published by Knopf, Feb. 2009 USA

Sister Mary Joseph Praise boarded the ship for a long grueling voyage from her home land in India to the mission village in Ethiopia. She was glowing with the anticipation of her new calling as a surgical assistant in the small hospital in Addis Abada. During the crossing, she saves the life of a handsome English doctor.

Years later she is surprised to find herself working alongside the striking doctor for whose life she had saved. They quickly fuse together into a finely tuned machine. Sister Mary Joseph could anticipate his every move, was always there with the right instrument without him even glancing up, suctioning and packing as if she was an extension of him.

Seven years after they started sharing the operating room together, unbeknown to anyone that she was pregnant; Sister Mary Joseph went into labor. The shocked doctors quickly realized she and the baby were in distress. Dr. Stone only wanted to save the young nun and was ready to abort the child when Dr. Hema realized there are actually two babies. To save their lives, a caesarian was the only way. The twins, Marion and Shiva were born conjoined at the head, but quickly separated and born healthy. Sister Mary Joseph Praise did not survive. Distraught over her death, Stone cast off the children and fled for America. Hema assumed the role of mother to the orphaned boys and raised them in the village to become experts themselves in the field of medicine, one in research and discovery, the other as a surgeon.

The twins joined at birth were so in sync with each other that Marion referred to them as one name, “ShivaMarion”. Even the betrayal by one of the brothers could not keep them from knowing one another’s thoughts and pain regardless of the miles between them.

Verghese’s epic novel will take you from the turbulent times of a small mission hospital caught up in the throes of political chaos to an inner city hospital in the Bronx, New York. The sights, sounds and smells of the hospitals and their surrounding will resonate in your soul. The vivid descriptions of the medical procedures are often graphic and unnerving, but always comprehensible. This is first and foremost a story of two brothers. But it is so much more. You will love the foster parents and the villagers that all took part in raising the boys. Perhaps you will learn to understand and forgive Thomas Stone for abandoning his children. There is betrayal and loss, truths and consequences, surprising twists and multiple plots. This is not a quick read and takes your concentration to absorb all the innuendos. Praised by renowned authors and critics as one of the best novel of the century, this deserves your full attention.

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