Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2009)

This book was suggested by a friend years ago, and I finally got around to reading/listening to it. The book is interesting on various planes - and I understand the attraction for her to all the medical descriptions, as my friend is a vet.

I understand Verghese is an Ethiopian-born medical doctor, so much of the story takes place in Ethiopia, a place that holds interest for me, as I work with a journal and conference on African development that focuses a lot on Ethiopia. It helped me visualize Addis Ababa and understand the various political upheavals the country has endured.

Actually, few of the characters were Ethiopians. Stone of the title is a British surgeon from India. Sister Mary, Hema, and Gosh are Indian expat doctors and nurses. Even of the "locals" some are Eritreans - and I had to look up the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict, finding out that Eritrea broke off in 1993. Ethiopia itself has an interesting and unenviable history. It was interesting to hear about medical education in India and Ethiopia and then how those that land in the U.S. have difficulty getting into the major hospitals, but work in those treating the poor populations of Americans. All of these doctors in the story were highly dedicated to their work, their patients, and some even managed to come up with medical breakthroughs.

All of this interesting information was couched in an engrossing story of a set of twin brothers born in an Addis Ababa hospital. Unfortunately their mother does not survive and father disappears, so they are brought up by Hema and Ghosh, two other doctors at the hospital. The story is told by Marion, one of the twins - as he reconstructs his birth parents story, remembers his own childhood and puberty (very touching), how he started helping Ghosh at the hospital and realized he too wanted to be a doctor. His twin Shiva was brilliant, but not one to follow narrow guidelines, so he ends up helping Hema in her work with obstetrics without going to med school. The brothers are incredibly close, but different and life does separate them. 

This was a beautiful story of human compassion and endurance, of family ties, even if not by blood, and opened my heart and eyes to one more part of the world.


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