Cutting for Stone: A Novel by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is a sweeping epic novel that spans continents and generations, telling the story of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva Stone, who are orphaned at birth and raised at a mission hospital in Ethiopia. The novel is narrated by Marion, who recounts his and his brother’s extraordinary journey, which is marked by love, loss, betrayal, redemption, and the enduring power of family.


The story begins in 1947, with the illicit love affair between Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a beautiful Indian nun, and Thomas Stone, a brash British surgeon. Mary follows Thomas to Ethiopia, where they work together at Missing Hospital, a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Despite their forbidden love, Mary and Thomas are drawn to each other by a shared passion for healing and a deep understanding of the human condition.

In 1954, Mary gave birth to twins, Marion and Shiva, but she died during childbirth. Thomas, overwhelmed by grief and guilt, vanishes without a trace. The twins are raised by Hema, a compassionate obstetrician, and Ghosh, a brilliant but eccentric pediatrician. Marion and Shiva are inseparable as children, and they develop a deep love and respect for each other.

As they grow older, Marion and Shiva begin to develop their own unique interests. Marion is drawn to the art of medicine, and he follows Ghosh around the hospital, learning everything he can about the human body and the practice of healing. Shiva is drawn to the art of dance, and he studies under Hema, who is a renowned dancer.

Both joy and sorrow mark Marion and Shiva’s adolescence. They witness the horrors of the Ethiopian Revolution and the suffering of their patients, but they also experience the first stirrings of love. Marion falls in love with Genet, his childhood friend, and Shiva falls in love with Lea, a beautiful Ethiopian woman.

However, their happiness is short-lived. Genet is forced to flee Ethiopia during the revolution, and Lea dies in childbirth. Shiva is devastated by Lea’s death, and he retreats into a deep depression. Marion, determined to help his brother, takes him to America, where they train to become doctors.

In America, Marion and Shiva finally find some measure of peace and happiness. They both have successful careers as surgeons, and they start families of their own. However, they are still haunted by the ghosts of their past, and they continue to search for answers about their father’s disappearance.

One day, Marion receives a letter from Thomas, who is dying of cancer. Thomas reveals that he abandoned Marion and Shiva because he was consumed by guilt over Mary’s death. He also reveals that he has been secretly watching over them for years. Marion and Shiva travel to Thomas’s bedside to forgive him and to say goodbye.

In the end, Marion and Shiva come to terms with their past and find their place in the world. They learn that love and forgiveness are the most powerful forces in the universe, and that family is the greatest blessing of all.


Cutting for Stone is a complex and multifaceted novel that explores many themes, including love, loss, betrayal, redemption, family, forgiveness, and the power of healing.

One of the central themes of the novel is the power of love. Love is the driving force behind Mary and Thomas’s relationship, and it is also the force that binds Marion and Shiva together. Love also motivates Marion to help his brother and to forgive his father.

Another important theme is the importance of family. Marion and Shiva are orphaned at birth, but they find a loving family in Hema and Ghosh. The novel explores the different types of families that we can create, both by blood and by choice.

The novel also explores the themes of forgiveness and redemption. Thomas is forgiven by Marion and Shiva for abandoning them, and he finds redemption through his love for his sons. Marion also learns to forgive himself for his mistakes.

Finally, the novel explores the power of healing. Marion and Shiva are both gifted surgeons, and they use their skills to heal the sick and injured. The novel also explores the emotional and spiritual healing that can occur when we forgive others and ourselves.


Cutting for Stone is a powerful and moving novel that celebrates the human spirit. It is a story about love, loss, betrayal, redemption, and the enduring power of family. The novel is beautifully written and deeply insightful, and it will stay with readers long after they finish reading it.

Additional notes:

  • The novel is titled Cutting for Stone because it is a metaphor for the process of healing. In surgery, doctors sometimes have to cut through healthy tissue to reach the diseased tissue. Similarly, to heal emotionally and spiritually, we sometimes have to confront our pain and suffering.
  • The novel is set in Ethiopia and America, two very different cultures. The novel explores the themes of culture clash and identity.