Ethiopia: Distant Stones

The big, beautiful, and colourful book, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese tells the story of the members of the Stone family. Marion and Shiva, the twin brothers, were orphaned at birth, because their Indian nun mother died giving birth to her sons, and their father disappeared. The boys grew up during the turbulent times in Ethiopia’s history, yet it was love that tore them apart. The twins fell in love with the same woman, and Marion fled the country, and ended up as an Intern in a hospital in New York City.

The book deals with many major issues in life; love, betrayal, family problems, growing pain, and of course, in the end, a reflection back on everything as well as relying on people from the past you thought you left behind a long time ago. Because of the setting revolution, religion, and race play their own powerful parts in the story. Hospitals give this story its own edge, which is refreshing.

There is quite a lot of medical jargon in the book, but I quite liked it, did not bother me at all. Always good to read outside your comfort zone, even though it was not really a hard read. I did not appreciate the beginning of the book, because I find the author goes on and on about the first day, which in the end wasn’t that interesting. I quite like the title, because it is a part of the Hippocratic Oath, and the men in the book are Mr Stones, which is cleverly put, because they are all fascinated by medicine.

“We have more English Bibles than there are English speaking people in the entire country… We need medicine and food. But we get Bibles… I always wondered if the good people who send us Bibles really think that hookworm and hunger are healed by scripture? Our patients are illiterate.” This is such a powerful part of the book, summing in a way how some congregations feel they are helping “poor people in Africa” – Believe in what we tell you to believe, then we will help you.

Did this book have an impact on my life? I have to be honest and say no. The setting and characters are all there to make a great book, but I just did not warm up to the characters. I really wanted to, but it wasn’t there. I was reading through some reviews earlier today, and it seems like some people fell in love with the book from pretty much the beginning, whereas others have not gotten into the story at all. Strangely enough, I understand both views. We are all such different readers, and you can definitely get a lot out of this book, if this is a subject you are truly interested in. On the other hand, it was a bit hard to get into it, and if the characters feel distant, well, you might never get into it.


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