I just finished reading one of the most gripping fiction novels I’ve read in a long time, Cutting for Stone. I’ve always been an avid reader, but with current events/daily news, podcasts, and food blogs and publications, sometimes it becomes a challenges to juggle all the content out there that I want to read. The amount of information to consume can be very overwhelming, so I’ve made a goal to read at least one book per month. Although I’ve been leaning more towards nonfiction (I suppose it’s in an attempt to better understand the world around me and how people think and why), I do still crave fiction and how imaginative it can be. I like the feeling of being transported into another life, another reality, even if it’s only temporary.
This book came recommended to me in March 2017 by my friend’s grandpa. I was in Arizona for her wedding, and during her reception, I had over an hour-long conversation with her grandpa, who was a retired heart surgeon. Being a Jewish heart surgeon in a red state, he certainly had a lot of opinions and perspectives that we discussed. It was a very intellectually stimulating conversation, as I learned so much that I hadn’t before just by speaking with him. He truly was as great as my friend always said he was, and so open about sharing. During this conversation, when he shared with me how passionate he was about treating patients with empathy and care, he told me the book that he strongly recommended I read to understand a doctor’s perspective, what pulled him into medicine and being a surgeon, and how strongly he felt about making a patient feel cared for and respected during treatment, and that book was this one. I immediately noted it down on my phone and finally got to it this month, and I have zero regrets.
The general synopsis of the book is this (there’s no reason for me to summarize it if the publisher already does it so well):
“Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.
Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles–and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.”
It’s a complex story that combines familial ties and drama, politics, religion, medicine, and love in a way that I never really thought about before. It details disease and medical treatment and surgery only in a way that a doctor could (the author is also a doctor and professor of medicine), but even as someone who knows very little about the study of medicine, I actually found these detailed explanations extremely interesting. And the story really draws you in after a slow start. The bond between the two twins is so strong that as they were conjoined twins at birth with their head connected, throughout their childhood together, and even as adults in troubled times, they found solace in sleeping together with their heads touching. Towards the end of the book, with all the tragedies and deaths that occurred, I found myself in tears thinking about their sibling love for one another. I know I truly enjoyed a book when I’m sad that I’ve finished it.
The power of sibling love. It’s like what they say in the book: it can be so strong that when one sibling dies, it’s as though something in the surviving sibling has died, as well.
These are a few of the quotes that really stood out in the book to me:
From the Middle East folktale “Abu’s Slippers”: “The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”
“Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.”
“Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?”
“We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We’ll leave much unfinished for the next generation.”