The act of writing taps into something that’s different from sitting and thinking. For example, if I set out to write a piece on something I’ve taken a fancy to, I might have a very good idea of what I want to write. But when I (physically) sit down and start writing, what emerges is slightly mysterious. It comes from the right brain, and you couldn’t have found it otherwise. Call it the muse…” — author and physician, Abraham Verghese
Welcome to our discussion of Cutting for Stone, a mesmerizing, beautifully written novel that brings death and life—-to life for readers.
To start our discussion, I am offering the following questions:
- Verghese taps personal experience and memory to inform and inhabit this novel. How does his own childhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia adding to this narrative? What about his own experiences as a physician?
- How effective is Verghese’s use of imagination in telling a new fictional story? How does the style of his writing change between Marion’s time at Missing vs. his time at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour?
- In his acknowledgments, Verghese specifically cites the various sources: people (including surgeons and experts), scientific literature and other readings, and experiences (including observation of surgeries) he uses to create scenes and describe medical cases and outcomes. How effective is this? Why does this seem so important to him?
- What are your thoughts on the relationships between the characters (and his depiction of those characters as well as their interactions): Ghosh and Hema, Marion and Genet, Marion and Shiva? What did you find most compelling?
- Discuss the shifts in point of view, from first person (I) for Marion, and third person for other characters, including Thomas Stone. Does this work?
- What are some examples of especially lyrical writing? How effective is the novel’s opener and ending, or other elements of the book you would like to highlight?
- Overall, what ‘talking point’ comments do you have to spark discussion?