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Reading Buddies Discussion: “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese

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Welcome, Cutting for Stone reading buddies! As usual, if you haven’t read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and plan to, you might want to skip this post and its comments, as spoilers are fair game.

So far I’ve read through part 2, page 223 in my paperback copy. I was told on several occasions that the first 200 pages–essentially, the twins’ birth–was slower and that the book picked up from then on. I’m looking forward to getting into the “exciting” part! I wasn’t at all bored by the first two parts, so I’m expecting to love the remainder.

I’m really enjoying Cutting for Stone so far. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read since it first came out, and–as usual!–I’m wondering why on earth I waited so long. I like Verghese’s writing as well as the characters he’s introduced. Hema and Ghosh make me smile, and I very much admire Matron. (The scene where she takes the sponsor from Texas through the hospital? So good.) I also appreciate how Verghese peppers the novel with bits of medical information without sounding overly technical or overwhelming the story. Since most of the characters we’ve met practice medicine in some capacity, it makes sense for them to be comfortable with procedures and knowledge in a way that with ordinary characters would seem false. I’m sure Verghese’s own medical background allows him to pass this comfort level on to his characters. (Did you know he also grew up near Addis Ababa?)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (cover)I also think Verghese does a nice job with tangents. A character will be doing something relevant to the shared storyline, and Verghese will take him or her off on a little trip to the past or a memory, or off after a thought or whim, in a way that lets the reader learn a lot about the characters. I’ve read books before where this technique is jarring or confusing, but not so here.

I’ll admit, at the beginning it unsettled me a bit to have Marion narrating. He hadn’t even been born when the events in question occurred, yet he seemed privy to the innermost thoughts and feelings of those present at Missing on the day of his birth. I noticed that toward the end of Part 2, the constant use of “I” fell away and the twins were more frequently referred to in the third person, a shift of which I was glad. I know I won’t mind Marion narrating when we get to what he might actually remember, but in these initial pages, it didn’t work for me. Did it bother you at all?

I’m also curious: why do you think so much time is spent on the twins’ birth and first year? 200 pages–nearly a third of the novel–seems like a disproportionate chunk to devote to a span of less than a year. Perhaps we’ll find out why further into the novel?

In closing, I found this passage to be especially lovely. Have any lines stuck with you so far?

“As she bent over the child she realized that the tragedy of death had to do entirely with what was left unfulfilled. She was ashamed that such a simple insight should have eluded her all these years. Make something beautiful of your life.” (p. 64)

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  • http://perduedansleslivres.blogspot.com virginie

    I am just beginning my reading of Cutting for Stone. I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked lately, and I am having people at home this week end so I am afraid I won’t read much. Sorry, this comment is not very useful for the conversation. I’ll be back in 15 days for the Wrap-Up post.

    • Erin

      That’s ok! Read at your own pace. The point of the double posts is really so that people can choose when during the month they want to read the book. I hope you’re enjoying the novel! About halfway in, I’m liking it quite a bit.

  • http://homeofaimala.blogspot.com/ Amy

    Erin, I have finally joined you this month in Reading Buddies. I’m on page 322 of Cutting for Stone. I was going to email you today about whether all participants are supposed to write posts about the book or how it works.

    I didn’t know the first 200 or so pages are supposedly a little slow. I’m pretty excited about the rest of the book if that’s true! So far I’m really enjoying it & think it’s fascinating!

    Verghese’s writing is wonderful! I love how true-to-life the medical info & scenes are. I agree with you about the tangents – they might be tangents but they work well in the story. I really like Hema and Ghosh & Matron is smart & funny. I enjoyed the scene with the Houston investor was a great scene.

    I actually liked Marion narrating even prior to his birth. i didn’t think I would but it was interesting. At some point he did refer to being told some of what he was saying. But his thoughts and feelings were all his! I thought Verghese might have started with Marion narrating for continuity hrough the entire book. I think, too, some cultures or religions believe you can remember thoughts & feelings from when you were in the womb. I have some problems with that!

    I think the story might go back to the year of Marion & Shiva’s birth…I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Thomas Stone & so I expect at some point that wonderful & awful day will be rehashed and maybe some of the twins first year.

    (sorry my comment is so long!)

    • Erin

      Yay, Amy, I’m so happy to have you along! You don’t have to write a separate post, but you’re welcome to post as many times as you’d like. I’ll post twice: the discussion post (this one) and then in 2 weeks, the wrap-up. The wrap-up will include a Mr. Linky, and if you do write a post (or several), you’re invited to link up. It’s pretty informal…just do whatever you want :-)

      I was very surprised to hear the first 200 pages were supposedly slow. I think the person who recommended it to me told me I just had to “get through” the birth chapters and then the book really picked up. But I didn’t feel like I had to “get through” anything!

      I like your points about having Marion narrate the whole book. Now that I’m past those initial pages, I don’t mind at all. But it almost feels like I’m reading a different book, having gone from almost third-person narration with the occasional “I” to heavy first-person narration.

      I bet we haven’t seen the last of Thomas Stone either. And even if it was long, that day provided an amazing amount of background and character development!

      As for long comments, well…I never mind those :-)

  • http://ashleyfictionista.blogspot.com/ Ashley Amanda

    I mentioned your blog in my latest post! Check it out http://ashleyfictionista.blogspot.com/2011/06/awarded.html

    • Erin

      Thank you, Ashley Amanda, that’s very kind of you!

  • http://wordsandpeace.wordpress.com emma

    Hello, I’m just discovering your blog, with delight. I actually posted on June 10th a review of Cutting For Stone. I enjoyed every minute of this book I listened to. Great narrator.
    for this question: I think it’s essential that so many pages are devoted to the 1st year of the twins, because as you’ll see the book is so much about their relation, and that’s when it all started. keep going, it gets better and better!
    http://wordsandpeace.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/my-review-44-of-cutting-for-stone/
    Emma @ Words And Peace

    • Erin

      I’ll link your review up, Emma, thanks for letting me know about it! I think you’re right about the reason the twins’ early life was so long. It was revisited again and again, every detail woven back into the story, it seemed. It was such a wonderful book!

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