Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Cutting for Stone"--a book club discussion

 This month my book club read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. The book is a sweeping saga about identical twin boys who were raised in Ethiopia during a time of political strife to adoptive parents after their mother (a nun) died in childbirth and their father abandoned them. (How's that for a one sentence summary of a long and complex book?) Medicine dominates the book as all of the main characters are doctors, and details of medical procedures, diseases, and patient treatment are woven into every part of the story. The book is well loved by critics and the public alike. It came out in 2009 and is in its second year on the New York Times best seller list.

Without giving too much away, here's what my book club thought about Cutting for Stone.
(Ward says that I am being too careful about not revealing the plot of the book. Go here if you want to know  more.)

--We agreed that the book was rich with detail especially on the medical front. Most thought this made for interesting reading especially the two medical professionals that we have in the group. However, some thought the detail made the book too long and tedious to read at times.

--Generally we thought that the characters were well developed and you could understand the motivations behind their actions. Although, some thought the book seemed contrived at times.

--Most thought the book was well written even if they didn't like all parts of the story.

--We wondered what could be left to be explored in Verghese's second novel since this book has so many things happening in it.

Besides talking about how the book was written, the story led to general discussions about:

--The doctor-patient relationship, and the pros and cons of advancement in medical technology.

--The similarities and differences between identical twins.

--Treatment of animals today and 40 years ago.

--Which books have translated well into movies and which ones haven't

--Trends in teenage fashion and hair. Oh wait, we were sidetracked on this one.

What do I personally say?

Read this book. It is a powerful moving story. Aunt Martha recommends it also. However, be forewarned that there is a lot of explicit medical detail that you will be exposed to.