This one’s for you if you’re looking for a brilliant novel.

You know that feeling when you’re between books, and you just really want a novel to jump out and grab you? Well that’s what Cutting for Stone did for me. It has all the components of a great novel: triumphs, disasters, difficult relationships and moral dilemmas. Throw in a huge helping of beautiful language that a student of science can but marvel at, and its a winner. It is the story of conjoined twins born in Ethiopia in 1954- how they came to be, what happened as they grow up, and how their lives diverge and converge again. The author was born in Ethiopia in 1955 to Indian parents, where he started his medical education, before leaving to go to America because of civil unrest. This leaves you wondering how much of the story is autobiographical, to which I found some answers here. In my search for the answer to this question I also found this where I discovered how much the author wanted to show a different side of medicine to that which we see on TV.

Cutting for Stone is a longer book than the subjects of my previous posts so I’ve decided to split the quotes up into four themes. I would have loved to have given you more examples of his language but I felt like I had too many already- you’ll have to read the book!

MEDICINE

“You live it [life] 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.” p9 In the context of a morbidity and mortality hospital.

“It was often the second mistake that came in the haste to correct the first mistake that did the patient in.” p116

“A rich man’s faults are covered with money, but a surgeon’s faults are covered with Earth.” p203

“When you are driving, you look to see where you are going, but when you make an incision, you look to see where you have been.” p494

LANGUAGE

“The city was at once dead and yet in continuous motion, like a blanket of maggots animating a rotting corpse.” p29

DIFFERENT CULTURES/COUNTRIES

“Its [a child] head had been shaved to leave a traffic island tuft in front; Hema was told when she first came to Ethiopia that this strange haircut was so that if God chose to take that child (and He took so many), the tuft gave Him a handle by which to lift it to heaven.” p91

“It was as if nothing I’d ever done in my life prior to this counted. As if my past life was revealed to be a waste, a gesture in slow motion, because what I considered scarce and precious was in fact plentiful and cheap, and what I counted as rapid progress turned out to be glacially slow.” p464

“Judging people to be beyond help never crossed the minds of police, firemen, or doctors here [America].” p477

“Whatever America needs, the world will supply. Cocaine? Colombia steps up to the plate. Shortage of firearms, corn detasselers? Thank God for Mexico. Baseball players? Viva the Dominican Republic.” p491

PROFOUNDITIES

“We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot.” p6

“What she couldn’t bear was the feeling that something vital had been plucked out and uprooted from her chest when we walked away…There was, she saw now, a void in her life that she’d never known existed.” p28

“Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?” p95

“What a bad idea it had been to give the Bible to anyone but priests, Ghosh thought. It made a preacher out of everybody.” p139

“How we treat the least of our brethren, how we treat the peasant suffering with volvulus, that’s the measure of this country. Not our fighter planes or tanks, or how big the Emperor’s place happens to be.” p184

“Years later, when Idi Amin said and did outrageous things, I understood that his motivation was to rattle the good people of Greenwich mean time, have them raise their heads from their tea and scones, and say, Oh, yes. Africa.” p288

“How could they find an enemy they couldn’t see, in a countryside where they didn’t speak the language and couldn’t tell civilians and sympathisers from guerrillas?” p444

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