A sweeping story of family, politics, culture and personality that borrows heavily from such diverse sources as Shakespeare, Joyce, the films of Merchant-Ivory and a romantic tradition that extends far back into the roots of Abrahamic and Hindu Scripture.
The plot concerns the childhood and coming of age of twin boys born conjoined at the head. They are the apparent fruit of the union of an English doctor practicing in an Ethiopian clinic and his attending nurse, a Catholic nun.
Verghese writes as only a medical doctor can, but he also writes as only a very talented writer can, which means the story goes from operating theater to drawing room to boudoir and the author’s gifted style never varies throughout.
Yes, the man can write, and he has no small talent for it. One reviewer makes reference to the “luminescence” of his writing, and the metaphor is apt. While there are moments of forced emotive cloying, this is no pulp romance, though there are elements of so-called “chick-lit” to be found. There are elements of daring, both in plot and theme, that will hold readers tight as they follow the story, regardless of gender or preference for recreational reading style.
If Dr. Varghese is not an author for the ages (and only time will tell,) he is most assuredly an author for this particular age.
One important cautionary note: the author is a medical doctor and much of the novel’s action is set in an operating theater during a period of civil war. Readers need to be prepared for a type of graphic writing that describes surgical procedures in unflinching detail. In other words, the squeamish reader will wish to skip over some of the more sanguinary passages.
That caveat aside, “Cutting for Stone” is an enjoyable and engrossing read; a story not readily forgotten. (Five out of five stars.)