Two books I read recently that I thought I'd weigh in on.
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, was an excellent novel about family, country and how one's past shapes one's future.
In Missing Hospital, a mission in Ethiopia, a beautiful nun dies in childbirth. Her twin boys, Shiva and Marion, are the product of a secret union between the nun and the resident British doctor. Wracked with grief over the nun's death, the doctor abandons the boys, who are later adopted and raised at the mission. Years later, as political strife tears the country apart, Marion flees to the United States to save his life. Apart, the boys both grow into men fascinated with medicine, men whose pasts confront them in life-altering ways before the story's conclusion.
I worried that this book would be depressing, but its heaviness is tempered by vivid, loving descriptions of Ethiopia (almost its own character in this novel) and the characters' fortitude and optimism in the face of harrowing circumstances. Even the storylines with sad endings have some peace about them, some feeling of closure.
Verghese is an adept writer, and one whose own love of medicine is evident in this book. I learned all kinds of things, and I have a new appreciation for those who choose a life of healing. Though the book starts rather slowly, it is ultimately worth reading.
I also read Off Season, by Anne Rivers Siddons. In it, we meet young Lily, whose wealthy family summers on the Maine coast. There, she discovers her first true love and experiences her first true loss. As an adult, Lily returns to the same little beach house she frequented as a child when her husband dies unexpectedly. Memories echo all around her as she sorts out a new way of being and tries to make sense of all that has come before.
Though Siddons does an admirable job of creating a world and peopling in with characters, I have to say that this book is a downer. There is so much death in it, and Lily is forced to rally again and again. I didn't care for the ending, especially after I'd invested the time to cover nearly 400 pages getting there. Can't recommend this one.