30 July 2010

Cutting For Stone: Verghese

I read this quickly but in spurts because it was a good story. When I was tired I put it away and then later would often re-read the parts I had finished a day or two earlier. As usual, because it was a paperback I dog-eared sentences or paragraphs that were particularly good or I wanted to come back to for some other reason. There were a lot of these.

I have not read any of Dr Verghese's other books or his shorter works found in places like The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal etc. But I probably will because he is so enjoyable to read and tells such a good story. He combines a little of Homer's Odyssey, from India to Ethiopia to the USA and back to Ethiopia; some of the stories of expatriate Indians scattered all over the world; some interesting doctor-in-training stories; and a good deal of medicine practiced in the 3rd world and finally, some characters we really care about along with medicine practiced by 3rd world characters in the 1st world.

There is some political and medical history deftly mixed in but it is the story of the men and women and kids of Kerala come to Ethiopia that really grabs your attention. How is it that so much good fiction in English is being written by Indian expatriates? The author is kind to his readers by giving a nice bibliography and especially for acknowledging the source of a lot of lines and ideas. He may spend more time reading than he does writing.

Cutting for stone is explained in Wikipedia. One of the dog-eared pages, near the end of the story, gave advice for surgeons and everyone:
 "The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not." 
but my favorite was:
"Try not to operate on the day of death."
I am hoping my surgeon feels the same way.

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