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?)
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)