Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Length not about number of pages

Never let it be said that I am intimidated by a long novel.
I followed "Pillars of the Earth"'s nearly one thousand pages with the much shorter "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese (534p).
But as any reader will tell you when you're immersed in a story, the pages fly by.
Some of the longest books I've read had fewer than 200 pages. What they didn't have was my interest.
From the dramatic opening sequence of a nun giving birth to twins at an Ethiopian mission hospital through the twins' quest and national struggles, Verghese certainly had that.
I was most drawn to the personal, not the political, elements of the story.
Marion and Shiva spend their formative years as the nation around them changes but the upheavals and uprisings only interested me as they affected these two and their family, not from a more global perspective.
As Marion says ...
"When she walked away I felt the weight of what she left unsaid. I wanted to call after her, Ma! You have it all wrong. But just as she kept her thoughts to herself, I was learning to do the same. This was what growing up was about: hide the corpse, don't bare your heart, do make assumptions about the motives of others. They're certainly doing all these things to you."
Perhaps not the most joyous assessment of growing up, but true nonetheless. What a turn of phrase. Who hasn't felt that weight of the unsaid?
Before I knew it most of the book had flown by. Yet I found my interest waning in the last section of the novel. And I'm not sure why. Did anyone else have a similar experience?
Is your book club tackling Stone as News-Herald writer Janet Podolak's is? This reading group guide may be helpful.
Read the first chapter here.
Verghese discusses the inspiration for Stone.

Happy reading!

-Tricia Ambrose

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