Monday, August 16, 2010

one good story

before i opened Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, i was in dire need of a good book.  a good story to take my mind off the stresses associated with my own life story at the moment.  and this was a book that i know i will be recommending and thinking about for quite some time.

marion stone is the main character, one half of a set of identical twins whose indian nun mother died during his birth and whose father, a top british surgeon working in the mission hospital in addis ababa where he was born, ran away immediately following his birth.

marion's story, along with his twin brother shiva's, parallels the story of ethiopia since the second world war and as marion leaves childhood behind and becomes a man during a repressive political regime and amidst the secession politics and attempted coups, his adoptive parents foster in him a love of academic study and medicine.  but it is the relationships that he has with those around him and how they evolve that is most fascinating and well described in the book.

i love a good historical novel, one that weaves facts and history into an engaging story, offering the opportunity not only to be entertained through storytelling, but also to get a unique perspective of a time and place.

along with the story of ethiopia, this book also is the story of surgery and the passion that doctors bring into that field of work as well as an exploration of why they choose medicine.  as someone who knows very little about the inner workings of the medical profession, i did not get lost in the language and along with learning more about ethiopia, i also had a glimpse into the life of expat doctors both in east africa and the us.

it is also a tale of deceit, trust, forgiveness and an example of how families are often not the ones you are given, but the ones you choose.  the author doesn't scrimp on details and many of the plot twists are completely unexpected, making it a book i wanted to get back to whenever i had put it down and one that offers enough depth to make it a true telling of a very rich story.

in some ways, it reminded me of Camilla Gibb's Sweetness in the Belly in its description of Ethiopia as someone's home and not as a visitor passing through would see the country.  both great books to read and if you do, i'd love to hear what you think!

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