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I finally finished the book Cutting for Stone

by Abraham Verghese. For quite a few years, when I asked for recommendations on what to read, this book was on the list. I bought it years ago, and started it at least 4 or 5 times and couldn’t get into it, so put it aside and moved onto something else. When I was younger, if I started a book, I finished it, whether I liked it or not. Today, I figure I am not accountable to others for what I read, (unless it is book club books—and those I finish regardless of my opinion), so if I don’t like it, I move on to something else.

Since I have been home more, and reading voraciously, I decided to tackle some of the books I have that I hadn’t read. For a few weeks, I was moving through books at a quick rate—2-4 per week. Then I started Cutting for Stone, and it took me almost three weeks to finish it. Cutting for Stone was not a book I loved. It was long and wordy, but I adored a few characters—Hema, Ghosh, and Marion as the three main ones. For me to be engaged in a book, I have to connect with at least one or two characters. I also liked Matron, Deepack, and Tsige, so I wanted to know what happened at the end, but the end was a long way coming. All throughout the book, you are given bits and pieces of what might have happened with some of the major players, which makes you try to guess. It isn’t until about 500 pages (of 658 pages) into the book, that you get the full story of what happened with Thomas Stone. I think the story line was interesting, and there were some excellent points to contemplate life, but it was a bit tedious and long getting to the end. I think I sailed through the final 100 pages 10 times faster than the first 100.

The book was educational on many levels—rural hospital life in Ethiopia, and the medical system in the US. The bond between twins. A new understanding of life in Ethiopia-- politically, socially, culinary, and educationally. I think I have earned a minor medical degree, and while maybe not qualified for surgery, can diagnose illnesses based on smells—perhaps a bit too technical on the medical side. The author is after all a doctor,

as well as a writer!

The book is set in Ethiopa, with the main storyteller one of two twins who are born to a mother who dies in childbirth, and a father, who leaves. Instead of being abandoned, they are taken in by the community, most importantly the doctor who gave them life, Hema, and the man she finally accepts as her husband, Ghosh. Two better parents you will never find. Their dedication to these boys is awe-inspiring. The staff who surround their rural hospital are extended family and the whole family is constantly surrounded with love.

They do not live in opulence, but compared to those around them, they are blessed. They are well-educated, more so by their “parent’s” than their school, and both boys are brilliant.

I think if the characters had been more open and talked more with each other on troubling issues, instead of holding them in, a lot of the bad things that happened in the book, could have been avoided. Sister Mary Joseph Praise should have opened up about her pregnancy, and she might have lived. So many “should have, could have’s” if they had just been more open with each other,disasters could have been avoided. Food for thought in our own lives.

There were some profound statements in the book which I hope to remember.

I loved the key to happiness: “The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don't. If you keep saying your slippers aren't yours, then you'll die searching, you'll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

“Now and then Ghosh would grin and wink at me across the room. He was teaching me how to die, just as he'd taught me how to live.” There were many more, but lots of details in between.

I am glad I read it, but even happier that it is over and I can move on to something else. To prove a point, I started on the new Walt Longmire book and have it almost finished in 24 hours! It is outstanding!

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