Thursday, June 27, 2019


Once in a great while a book like this one comes along. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, 2010, is a gripping chronicle of the lives of four primary characters and those who care for them.  The author, born in Ethiopia, practiced medicine in his native country before becoming a professor at medicine at Stamford. In his debut novel, Verghese gets into the heads of his characters as only a physician can do letting the reader experience the thoughts and emotions of a surgeon anticipating, during, and following an operation.

Thomas Stone, a young British surgeon, has been working in a mission hospital in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia in 1954, when an Indian nun, Sister Mary Praise, applies for a position as a surgical nurse. Doctor Stone welcomes her, but doesn’t recognize how young and beautiful she is or her skill until she appears in scrubs and starts to work with him.  She is a superb surgical assistant, and eventually they fall in love. Unknown to Stone, Sister Mary becomes pregnant with his child until she is in active labor. She reveals her pregnancy and insists that he deliver her twins. Despite his lack of experience in obstetrics, he attempts the delivery, but she hemorrhages and dies. Stricken with grief and shame, he is unable to continue, and runs away to Kenya and the U.S. leaving the delivery of the identical twins to Dr. Ghosh, a fellow physician.

Thus begins the saga of four primary characters, Dr. Thomas Stone, Dr. Ghosh, and the twins, Marion and Shiva against a background of a violent revolution in Ethiopia.

This is not a short book, but one you will find difficult to put down.  The pages are filled with authentic characters who continue to interact for an incredible ending. Don’t miss this one!

P.S. Although this has nothing to do with the story, I thought this snippet may be of interest to any history buffs.

In medieval England, caregivers were either physicians or surgeons. Physicians who usually used herbs and chemicals as medicines, attended university and were called “doctor”.  In 1771, Sir William Withering was knighted for his discovery that the foxglove herb, developed as digitalis, was effective in treating heart failure.

Surgeons, who were also barbers, with no formal training were addressed as “mister” and performed operations resembling butchery until 1847 when Lord Joseph Lister was the first to use an antiseptic (carbolic acid) during surgery greatly reducing infection.

Monday, June 3, 2019


Today’s book, The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore published in 2016, is a most remarkable work of historical fiction.  If my daughter had not called it to my attention, I would have missed it. The story takes place in New York in 1888 when indoor lighting was limited to gas lamps and candles.  This legal contest between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse aided by a Nikola Tesla arose to answer a billion-dollar question. Which one of them was the first to invent the electric light bulb and hold the right to light the United States? The case also determines whether the electricity used for lighting and other industrial purposes should be direct or alternating current.

Paul Cravath, just out of Columbia Law School, is selected to represent George Westinghouse. This is Cravath’s first case. He attends sparkling parties where he meets the upper crust of New York society and a star of the Metropolitan Opera.  His task is incredibly difficult as he encounters insidious political machinations done behind closed doors.  In his relentless representation for Westinghouse, Cravath’s legal naiveté is shattered time and again as he jousts with the powers of Edison, City Hall, and Wall Street.

This book is definitely a page-turner the reader will find hard to put down.