By January 30, 2012 2 Comments Read More →

Discussing “Cutting for Stone”

Has your book group discussed Abraham Verghese’s big, drama-stuffed novel, Cutting for Stone, yet?  From what I’ve been hearing, it’s currently a very popular choice with book clubs, even though it weighs in at well over 600 pages.  Because of the book’s length, I assigned it to my group in November for our January selection (since we don’t meet in December, that gave everyone two months to work on it).

Cutting for Stone is a novel about doctors written by a doctor, and as you would expect, it’s loaded with medical details.  This aspect of the book may work as both a plus and a minus — at least that’s what my group thought.  Some readers loved the authentic descriptions of diseases and ailments and their corresponding treatments , while others flinched at these passages and quickly skimmed over them.

Highlights of our discussion?  One participant felt that the author, a male, had trouble creating female characters that exhibited any real complexity.  Another admitted confusion about the complicated delivery of conjoined twins that begins the book: the babies are supposedly connected at their heads, yet the physician performing the delivery sees only one of the heads trying to emerge from the mother and subsequently damages the child — considering where the babies were connected, how could this happen?

Dr. Verghese feels strongly that practicing medicine is a noble profession — one that should be approached with great care and compassion.  This passionate philosophy comes through in his storytelling, despite some melodramatic elements in the novel.  This is one of those books where a son abandoned at birth by his father in Ethiopia still manages to encounter him many years later on the other side of the world, in America; where two brothers become romantically involved with the same woman; and where a man provides a life-saving organ for his brother, whom he once betrayed — etc., etc.

No denying there’s lots to discuss here.  Certainly no one in my group found the book boring.  And oh, I forgot to mention — the mother of the conjoined twins is a greatly revered nun!  How’s that for a real attention-grabber?



About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

2 Comments on "Discussing “Cutting for Stone”"

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  1.' Shelley says:

    Why is it so hard to create a complex female character? That’s a real drawback in a novel.

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