Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Club Meeting

Last night's book club meeting was joyful and delicious. The book discussed was a carry over from the prior week, "Cutting for Stone" by AbrahamVerghese. Several readers didn't quite make it through last month as it was 700 pages and so it was carried over to allow for more leisurely reading. A summary follows:

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death 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.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

Most enjoyed the book. Some had trouble getting into it but once into it they loved the writing and the characters. Nancy sobbed when the principal character died. Barbara almost cried.  There was quite a bit of discussion about the bad guy sort of triumphing. 

We ate well. There was a salad, a lovely stew concoction by Laurie which incorporated the spices mentioned in the book served with rice, lime juice and a bowl of chunky guacamole. Chicken piccata with pasta and braised artichokes. For dessert we had a brownie with juicy fresh blackberries from Rox's garden. Plenty of wine flowed. 

We wondered about the title and found that it was from the Hippocratic Oath, but here's a further explanation about specifically what it means - cutting for bladder stones.

" In the book’s epilogue, Verghese, a surgeon and professor at Stanford Medical School, closes with the following explanation, “Medicine is a demanding mistress, yet she is faithful, generous, and true […] every year, at commencement, I renew my vows with her: I swear by Apollo and Hygieia and Panaceia to be true to her, for she is the source of all…I shall not cut for stone.”  

In an interview he clarifies, there is a line in the Hippocratic Oath that says: ‘I will not cut for stone, even for  patients in whom the disease is manifest.’ It stems from the days when bladder stones were epidemic, a cause of  great suffering, probably from bad water and who knows what else. […] There were itinerant stonecutters— lithologists—who could cut either into the bladder or the perineum and get the stone out, but because they cleaned the knife by wiping it on their blood-stiffened surgical aprons, patients usually died of infection the next day. Hence the proscription ‘Thou shall not cut for stone."

Oddball characters in the book led to a discussion of oddball characters in our small town: we may be getting a dominatrix on Main street. A discussion of our encounters with various kooks both in and out of Fallbrook ensued. For instance, Nancy was the only one of us who actually sat next to a couple who had sex in the seats next to her on the plane on a Braniff Airlines flight. The woman, she said, repaired to the bathroom and put her hair in curlers in advance (of the sex) so that she would look good on arrival. The sex partner was apparently a stranger as she said they exchanged phone numbers on the way off the plane. Kathy told of people who would come into her shop and tell her all kinds of personal things which she attributed to the "ships that pass in the night" phenomenon. I too have had people on red-eye flights share embarrassingly intimate confessions. 

We found we had a virgin in our midst.   Susan had never eaten an artichoke so it was a first for her. I learned from Laurie that capers actually do come from a caper bush. My experience with processing them had been with nasturtium buds which I guess are "poor man's capers". 

Laurie disappeared into the kitchen doing some clean-up until we begged her to come back to the table. She said she was enjoying herself listening from the other room to the laughter and banter of women she loved. 

Next month's book is Birdology by Sy Montgomery. We discussed our interest in various birds briefly and Barbara noted that Sy owns the parrot who dances on You Tube.

Laurie had read research indicating that parrots are the only birds that can actually pick up a beat. Nancy had seen a PETA ad that depicted a family eating at a table with a child saying grace and asking for thanks for the turkey which had been raised in a "turkey factory". That led to a discussion of other PETA ads and a funny flexible glue ad.

1 comment:

  1. Great book club review! From now on you're the official book club blogger...should you choose to accept the assignment. It was so good I almost feel as if I was there!
    Now we'll have to, at least, get the book club members to read it.