So… we’re starting a new feature here on the Okie Reads blog that is literally talking about books. We’re going to do short interviews with friends and colleagues about the books they have been reading, and share their thoughts with our readers.
First up: Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. Verghese is a doctor and academician who has written extensively about disease and its impact on individuals and cultures, as well as about medical ethics and the physician/patient relationship. Cutting for Stone is his first work of fiction.
I noticed fellow library staffer Rebecca Barker reading the book last fall. Since Verghese’s novel takes place in Ethiopia, where he grew up, and Rebecca had been to Ethiopia, I was intrigued to get her take on the work.
Q: What does the novel’s title, Cutting for Stone, refer to?
A: At first, I saw the title referring to the connection between the gall bladder surgeries performed on patients and the Hippocratic Oath’s inclusion of “do no harm.” Toward the end of the book, I related the cutting away of issues between the characters to establish relationships between father and sons.
Q: So, some cutting away needs to be done in order to find the connections?
A: Yes, to find the love. I think the theme of the book is love; love of brothers, man and woman, adoptive parents. Love of country, medicine and self.
Q: How does the author balance his interest in medicine with the format of a novel?
A: The book is full of stories about particular afflictions Ethiopians suffer and the medical procedures employed to help them. I could easily envision the surgical procedures since he describes them so well. At the same time, there is a theme in the book of keeping the patient’s welfare at the forefront. I was interested to learn that Verghese works at Stanford and interacts with patients regularly. He teaches interns to focus on the patient rather than the medical equipment for diagnosing disease. Sounds like a man with a heart for humanity.
Q: You’ve been to Ethiopia, and you have friends there. How well do you think the author captured this part of the world? Did you learn more about the country than you previously knew?
A: Verghese brought back vivid memories to my mind of the country and the people of Ethiopia as I saw on my trip. He included a historical perspective of which I knew only a little, but by and large, he refreshed my memory of beautiful people who live graciously in a stark and difficult environment.
Q: Sounds like this book gets a definite thumbs up from you.
A: I highly recommend this book, one of the best I’ve read in the past few years. The warmth and passion kept me engrossed from beginning to end.
And there you have it, an unqualified recommendation.
Have any of you out there in the blogosphere read Cutting for Stone? If so, what was your take on the work?