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.

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