By Abraham Verghese
A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel — an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics — their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him — nearly destroying him — Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.
An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.
I’ve been told to read this book at least once a year since it was published. Actually probably more than that. When I told one of those people (who alone probably manages to bring it up to me once a year) that I finally read it, she said, “That’s an old book now!” Yup, that’s about how I roll.
Anyway, I did like this one. Was it worth all the hype? Maybe? I feel like it could have been shorter. Just a gut feeling that it didn’t need so much sprawl. But I can’t say what I would have cut either. Everything seemed essential in the end. Though I did sometimes find the length of the book a bit tedious. Not enough to stop or give up on the book, but occasionally tedious.
Note: if you’re pretty squeamish and can’t handle even reading descriptions of gore and medical stuff, do not read this book. It starts off with the world’s most difficult, detailed birth and it doesn’t go up from there.
I can’t believe this is a first book. It’s too poised, too polished, too composed despite the sprawl to be a first novel by an author. Just incredible in that regard.
If your friends have been pestering you to read this book (and you’re not squeamish) just give in and read it already. You won’t regret it.