Review: Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese


Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Recommend: No

Genres: Historical fiction

Add to your TBR: Goodreads

This book had such a promise. The story is a family saga set in Ethiopia, which to me was enough to entice my curiosity and for the book to make its way to my TBR. It took me months to read this, though. Months!

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth 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. Yet it will be love, not politics — their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him — nearly destroying him — Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.


This book has glowing reviews and a 4.28 rating in Goodreads. I debated with myself for a while whether to give it 2, 3 or 4 stars, at different times while I read it. I finally decided for 3, because this book surely has merits to it. Then changed to 2 after a few weeks.

The parts of the story about the Ethiopian civil conflicts and its impact on the characters’ lives is fantastic and the author surely writes wonderfully. The story has such interesting elements, such as the entangling of lives who come from such different places and with such different stories.

My criticism on this book relies on three things: first, at times the novel feels like scenes were made much longer than they should be, as if there was no editing done at all and it got me often quite bored. Secondly, the medical jargon became too much at some point, so maybe if you are a doctor yourself you might not mind it, but I found it tiring and unnecessary for character and story development. Lastly, Marion was not a character I liked at all, he was selfish, narcissistic and sometimes quite mean. Marion thinks very highly of himself and it makes him altogether unlikable. There is a scene on the second half of the book where he and another character have sex and I am not sure if it is meant to be so, but the scene is sadistic, cruel and more like sexual assault with, to make things worse, some victim-blaming afterwards. There was very little sympathy for Genet, who deserved much more and had a more complex and interesting personality than Marion. The story also starts very slow and it takes effort and patience to get where it gets really good – and then it gets slow again, then good, then slow… you see my point.

This is a rather popular one for book clubs, but I don’t recommend it unless you can get past the things I described above. From the reviews I saw on Goodreads, my opinion is rather different from most people who read it, so I suggest you read a few more reviews before deciding if to pick this one up.

Verdict: I will not recommend this book because of its romanticized rape scene, sadistic and selfish main character and the heavy medical jargon. If you can get past those things, this book surely has an intriguing plot and the author writes very well. Each character has a unique story and I liked that they were explored throughout the book.

3 thoughts on “Review: Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

  1. I read this quite awhile ago, actually before I started writing reviews, and remember being so disappointed. Like you said, it had such great promise but it was a difficult read. Great review!


  2. Pingback: My life in Books (It’s My Birthday!) | Naty's Bookshelf

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