Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fiction: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

 Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese stayed with me for days after completion, as I savored not only the detail of a childhood spent in a rural Ethiopian village hospital but also savored Verghese's skill in revealing, through the life of Marion Stone, how all the actions of our life resonate throughout our life.  That resonance in itself is a fascinating topic for me, and Cutting for Stone addresses it with great depth as he richly details the character's lives over the course of several decades.

For more detail, consider the summary below from the MORE online library catalog:   Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born to an Indian nun and a British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mothers 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...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.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Adult Non-Fiction "Between Man & Beast" by Monte Reel

Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure That Took the Victorian World by StormBetween Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure That Took the Victorian World by Storm by Monte Reel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Between Man and Beast" is a great little book about a little known explorer named Paul Du Chaillu who, in 1856, more or less stumbled his way through Gabon, Africa into the dense interior where few whites had ever been. It was on this journey that he spied his first gorilla. A beast that the natives feared greatly and one that changed the course of his life.
The story follows Du Chaillu to Victorian England where the great debate of evolution was just getting heated up. In steps Du Chaillu and his stuffed gorillas which look disturbingly human. The debate roils, his story is called into question and despite friends such as Charles Darwin and Sir Richard Burton, Du Chaillu's integrity is called into question. Bloodied but unbowed, Du Chaillu returns to Africa less a stumbler more a explorer only to reclaim his place among the scientific community.
Woven into this story is the moral/ethical stain of Victorian attitudes toward Africa and Africans. Monte Reel, the author, does a great job of placing the story in its historical context. Never shying away from the prejudices of the era. Du Chaillu, according to his writings, was one of the rare explorers not there to exploit African but to learn from them. Yet even the noblest intentions can be deadly as on his second trip to the interior he brought with him small pox, which spread like, well, small pox. He was barred from entering certain villages as word proceeded him that there was a white man bringing death.
More time could have been spent on gorillas, the beast at the heart of the story, but I guess I can read Dian Fossey if I need to know more.

View all my reviews