Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cutting for Stone

This is the period of time where I do nothing, but sleep, eat, read, eat and sleep. Life's fulfilling in a way, but it won't be for long, whether fortunately or unfortunately.

I bought Cutting for Stone more than a year ago and finally sat down to read it. The thing about thick books is that they don't really appeal to me. My writing style is, if you could put it in one sentence, don't bother putting it in ten. Then again, when it comes to fiction, the additional adjectives could paint a much better picture.

Warning: The first 1/5 of the book is incredibly descriptive, incredibly boring. Now that I've stated that outright, I'll say: The remainder 4/5 of the book was simply captivating. Before delving further, I'm sure this book would appeal to doctors. I totally know how people of different professions love books that describes their profession- because they can identify! Now, if you are a doctor or medical student, I'm sure the medical jargon would not escape you.

I'm sure those who are not doctors and happen to be reading this blog will be wondering, why is it titled Cutting for Stone?

Buried somewhere in the book, it states that in the Hippocratic Oath, one of the lines are "I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art." It is by no coincidence that the surnames of the main characters are Stone, and the fact that this story is very medical-based.

This book is about two twins who came to this world by the union of an Indian nun and a British doctor. The nun dies during labour and the doctor, unable to accept the fact, disappears. The twins are brought up by two other doctors in the hospital and the twins eventually become doctors. The events in Ethiopia caused the twin's "adoptive father" to land in jail for a brief period of time, and later results in Marion Stone (one of the twin brothers) to escape to US. Shiva (the other twin brother) and Marion are inextricably linked and yet have very different characters. Towards the end of the book, many things start falling in place (not providing the spoilers here!)

The first thing I thought after reading this book was, please don't make it into a movie. Upon googling, it seems that there are plans to make it into a movie. The thing about making books into movies is that you destroy imagination. But ever since it became a New York Times bestseller for so many weeks, you know its fate has been carved in stone.

That aside, Verghese makes it clear through his writing that he has very sound medical knowledge and can also write well. He makes you keep all the questions you have as you keep reading and answers all of them at one swoop towards the end. This book is for those with patience as things may get a little dry when he tries too hard to paint his characters. Sometimes, he also gives very vivid description of the surgeries or diagnosis so that if you were a medical school student, you would probably put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and feel pleased about getting it correct (assuming you identified it correctly!).

(photo credit: Joanne Chan, NY Times)

This is a good book, as long as you can get pass all the verbose. Beautiful writing nonetheless and a well-developed plot.

“The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.”


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