“After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954. We took our first breaths at an elevation of eight thousand feet in the thin air of Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia.”
As the story opens, twin boys are born to Sister Mary Joseph Praise in a small hospital in an African nation. There is difficulty with the birth, and the attending physician, Thomas Stone (aka the father of the boys), cannot cope with the probability that his patient will die. He finds himself unable to perform the necessary caesarian section, hands the whole job over to Hema, a woman gynecological doctor at the same hospital, and exits the scene as well as Ethopia. Hema valiantly saves the infants and ends up raising the boys along with Ghosh, once Dr. Stone’s assistant, now Missing Hospital’s resident surgeon.
Abraham Verghese shows himself to be an extraordinary writer in this, his first work of fiction. The author’s own experiences in the field of medicine provide a fascinating backdrop to an incredible story of love, loss and the search for personal happiness. The characters are so well-developed you feel you know them personally. My personal favorite is Ghosh – the amazing father who teaches the twins about the joys of medicine and of family.
Not only does Verghese present a wonderful story, there is also a bit of the historical background of Ethiopia, an immersion into the world of medicine, and some life lessons he imparts to his reader. Simply amazing!
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2009