Cutting for Stone


I just finished reading Cutting for Stone and all I can say is WOW.  This is one intense read.

I’m not ashamed to admit though, that is my second time picking up this book. I borrowed it from the library last summer after hearing everyone sing it’s praises and found, much to my dismay, that I couldn’t get into it at all! I think I read fifty pages then set it down and eventually returned it to the library unread.

However, this book has really stuck in my head over the past year because I’ve heard so many people say it’s their favorite book…yada yada yada. Finally, I decided to just try again. I needed to know what everyone was talking about! I don’t like feeling left out at a party, folks. So, I made the commitment to stick with it and I’m so glad I did. I still think that the beginning is a little slow (and doesn’t grab my attention like some books), but then you hit a point and it’s like BAM…you can’t put it down after that.

Make no mistake, this book is dark. And haunting. It reads like a screenplay and I wonder if a movie in the works? I became so wrapped up with the characters and both loved and hated them. And then the ending!!!!! Woah. I totally wasn’t expecting the ending and even though I finished this book a week ago, I am still thinking about it. Deep. I know this is a novel that will stick with me a long time….and I love that feeling.

Definitely give Cutting for Stone a try (or a second try!) but don’t expect it to be some light, fluffy beach read. You won’t regret it.

Anyone have a suggestion as to what to start next? I blew through Diane Chamberlain’s latest in about four hours and need something a little deeper to sink my teeth into (something that’s not fifty shade of gray…sorry!)

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  • Chrissy
    May 19, 2012 at 4:25 am

    I’m finishing up my book club pick and that’s next on my e reader. I always have to recommend The Town that Drowned by Riel Nason. She just won a first book award at the Atlantic Book Awards. You will fall in love with Ruby and Percy in the first chapter!!

  • Aimee
    May 19, 2012 at 4:31 am

    I had the same experience with Cutting for Stone. I’m so glad I gave it another try though because it blew me away. It was so beautifully written, touching and haunting at the same time.

    I haven’t found anything quite like it. I’m currently reading the Steve Jobs biography. It is quite interesting. I look forward to checking back in the comments for other book suggestions.

  • Laura
    May 19, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Your review is nearly identical to mine! I just finished the book a few days ago and I agree, the beginning WAS slow (I even read the Shades triology in between reading it) but once it picked up it was truly wonderful. I’m really happy I didn’t give up when I originally wanted to.

  • Ingrid
    May 19, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Did you ever finish An Echo in the Bone? I have heard Game of Thrones Series is great, I am about to start that.

    • AdrienneCarolyn
      May 19, 2012 at 4:52 am

      The Game of Thrones series is great! I’m almost done 3 out of 4 books…they are long reads though. I started reading them almost a year ago! Definitely worth the time and WAY better than the show (which is still good).

      • HilJo
        May 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm

        I loved the first three, the last two were long and harder to get through. There were good moments, but lots of wading to get to them…

        Just read Lady Susan (Jane Austen), Dracula, Three Musketeers, Man in the Iron Mask, and am on to Count of Monte Cristo–those were all GREAT 🙂

  • Aislinn
    May 19, 2012 at 4:57 am

    I hadn’t even heard of that book; I just read the description on Amazon, and it sounds like my kind of book. I’m now on my library’s waiting list for the kindle edition. Thanks!

    As for recommendations, I just read Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meaney and would highly recommend it; it’s funny, crazy, and thought-provoking. I love Michael Ondaatje’s novels; The English Patient is (obviously) my favorite, but the other two I’ve read, Divisadero and Anil’s Ghost, are also quite good. I currently live in Bangladesh, so I loved reading Tahmima Anam’s novel A Golden Age when I was preparing to move here. It tells the story of the country’s liberation war through a riveting, personal lens. I’d also recommend Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees. I’d put all of these books in the “deep” end of literary fiction. 🙂 Hope you find something good!

  • Madelin
    May 19, 2012 at 5:09 am

    Hi Jenna
    I think it’s great that you review books on your site, but I have to say I get nothing from your reviews! You don’t tell me anything about the book except whether you loved it or not. I would love you to actually describe the plot and characters etc.
    Then maybe I would have some idea of whether I would want to read it!

    • LC
      May 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      I have to agree with this. I read this book and I agree it is amazing, but it would be helpful to at least tell people what it is about!

      • Christy
        May 21, 2012 at 6:23 am

        Actually I would disagree with this. Who wants to have the book spoiled for them? Why not hear someone’s opinion and get an idea of what the literature is classified as to help determine whether or not you want to look into reading it? Anyone can regurgitate a summary of a book online. I love reading a book that has been recommended when pieces of it haven’t already been spoiled. Someone recommended Sarah’s Key after telling me “what it was about” and it ruined it for me. Sometimes I don’t even read the back of books because of them spoiling the story!

  • Mel P
    May 19, 2012 at 5:12 am

    I LOVED this book! Besides one other person, the other members of my book club didn’t push through it.

    I’m currently reading The Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah. So far, it’s another haunting read.

    • Megan @laughlovefood
      May 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

      I love The Winter Garden… I’m now hooked on all of her books!

  • Tessa @ Amazing Asset
    May 19, 2012 at 5:51 am

    I had the same reaction to this book…. sooo slow at first but when it started to really pick up, well no one really saw me for about 3 days while I finished it haha. Such an intense read indeed, but certainly enjoyable and one I think I would read again in a few years
    Oh and I agree with comments above, the Game of Throne series is fantastic! I am almost done with the fourth one now

  • jenny
    May 19, 2012 at 5:59 am

    Behind the Beautiful Forevers….by Katherine Boo. amazingly written, she lived in a mumbai slum for 3 years researching and this is her first book. highly recommend!

  • Books. Food. Fun.
    May 19, 2012 at 6:00 am

    I loved The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and I just finished reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Abundance, a novel about Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund was another one I enjoyed.

    • Cori
      May 19, 2012 at 7:25 am

      I LOVED The Forgotten Garden as well! I second the above recommendation for that book! The characters stuck with me a long time after I read that book! I have not read any others by Kate Morton yet, but I will be picking up Winter Garden this summer!

      • Kelsi
        May 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm

        I LOVE The Forgotten Garden. I’m starting Kate’s next book the House at Riverton soon. Also Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosney will stick with you forever. It’s a different perspective on the Holocaust that most people never think about. It deals with France, when Hitler forced Paris’s own police to ship out all the Jews. Heartbreaking and definitely one of the best books I have ever read.

        • Allison
          May 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm

          I agree! Incredible story!

  • Alexis
    May 19, 2012 at 6:04 am

    I loved The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It’s a YA novel, but it is poignant, funny, and beautifully written. Here is the synopsis:

    Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

    Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

    Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

    • Stacia
      May 19, 2012 at 8:55 am

      Absolutely one of my favorites!

    • Elisabeth
      May 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      I love ALL of John Green’s books. There are a lot of great of YA books these days.

  • Janelle
    May 19, 2012 at 6:04 am

    I guess I’ll have to try again, because I tried a month ago and quit. It was hard to get into AND the medical descriptions were making me feel nauseous as I read on the train!

  • Dana Bruxvoort
    May 19, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Have you read anything by Charles Martin? His books mesmerize me and he has such a artistic writing style. His books have very subtle Christian undertones and are NOT predictable at all. I read reread them because I just can’t get enough. “When Crickets Cry” and “The Mountain Between Us” are my two favorites. You will NOT be disappointed. 🙂

  • Emily
    May 19, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Jenn – I credit you for getting me back into reading. I pick my books off of your goodreads list, and have had such an easy time finding books to read now! I think you should try Follow The River by James Alexander Thom. I found it on your to-read list and loved it. The first chapter is gruesome – but WOW what a story. AND it’s a Mary Ingles story – I think you love that! It’s not light hearted, but it stuck with me for a long time.

  • Karoline
    May 19, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Have you read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss? I loved it and am now reading Great House by the same author, also great so far.

    • anne
      May 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      The History of Love is an incredible book!!

  • Jenn
    May 19, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Have you read “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard? I’m reading it now. Not exactly plot-centric though.

    I also recommend the Dragon Tattoo series. Took me a hundred pages to get into. But the book so sharply defines its characters it stays with you, also felt like it was written like a screenplay.

  • Hillary
    May 19, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Just finished read Running the Rift and it was pretty good. It’s about Rwanda and the genocide. Like Cutting for Stone, definitely not light and fluffy!

  • Kate
    May 19, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Thanks for the review- I started this book a couple days ago and stalled out… Now I’ll keep going!

  • Maura @ My Healthy 'Ohana
    May 19, 2012 at 7:52 am

    I loved this book! We went on a medical mission to Addis Ababa, and I had to read it again after that trip…thanks for sharing this review 😉

  • Katie
    May 19, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Jenna- Are you on I’d love to add you… you always have great suggestions.

  • jess
    May 19, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I just finished “the snow child” by eowyn ivey. It is also dark but at the same time hauntingly beautiful. It takes place in Alaska and the descriptions are gorgeous. Loved it. I also recently read “the flight of gemma hardy” which is a modernized Jane Eyre that takes place in Scotland and Iceland. I love Jane Eyre and thought this held true to the story while taking her own liberties.

  • Cait's Plate
    May 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    LOVED this book! I recommend it to everyone I know!

  • Suzanne H
    May 19, 2012 at 9:14 am

    If you like Dystopian-type novels, Partials by Dan Wells is great. So are Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. And Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver.

  • Megan @laughlovefood
    May 19, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Have you ever thought about starting an online book club? I think it would be so much fun!

  • Margarita
    May 19, 2012 at 9:53 am

    This is one of my favorite books! From beginning to end, it enthralled me… And I hated the older Genet with a passion. Did you feel that way?

    Have you read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant? I really liked that one…a great book for women of all ages. Another is The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway and The City of Thieves by David Benioff. Both are dark but very moving and real… A glimpse of a life that we are so lucky to not have to endure or go through.

  • Megan P
    May 19, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I really enjoyed Cutting for Stone as well, and had a similar difficulty getting into it at first but then got hooked.

    One of my favorite books I’ve ever read is “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts. It is quite long but so incredibly observant and insightful into life, love, experiences and the choices we make in life. It is one of those books that you want a notebook to write down things to remember from it. Amazing book!

  • Molly G
    May 19, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

  • Kim
    May 19, 2012 at 10:56 am

    You need to add a “Books” tab that has easy access to all your book reviews and by default all the comments of your readers that often have great suggestions. An oldie but goodie…The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

    • jenna
      May 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

      It’s coming soon! 😉

  • Tanni Theye
    May 19, 2012 at 11:43 am

    I agree about Cutting For Stone….slow to start but def worth sticking with although I wouldn’t place in my top reads. I am a total bookworm and could give loads of suggestions! I will list some here that I have enjoyed tremendously and passed on to others who likewise enjoyed…Juliet by Anne Fortier; Love Walked In and Belong to Me both by Marisa de los Santos; These is My Words by Nancy Turner; One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus; The Book Thief but Markus Zusak; Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford; and I can’t give book suggestions without adding a few classics….East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy!

  • Lauren
    May 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    I wrote a post about this book a few months ago 🙂 I loved it as well and the ending was … gah, I don’t even know what word to use to describe it. Proud to have this one displayed on my bookshelf.

  • Emma
    May 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Cutting for Stone reminded me a lot of The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, which is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s about a boy growing up in South Africa in the 1930s and is just beautifully narrated.

  • lisa
    May 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    If you haven’t already, you should read Abraham Verghese’s first book, My Own Country. It’s a beautifully written book about him being a physician in east Tennessee, during the time when HIV was a newer disease. The book is about the patients he takes care of, and their stories of acquiring and dealing with HIV. It is so good!

  • Jennifer
    May 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    If you liked “The Help”…you HAVE to read, “The Kitchen House” by Kathleen Grissom…’s just amazing and moving and beautiful. It takes place in Virgina in the 1790’s. An young Irish girl whose parents die during the crossing to the States indentured to a famiy and is placed with the slaves to be raised. She grows to love them and regard them as family. But as a white girl, of course, it gets complicated.

    • Christena
      May 20, 2012 at 4:04 am

      I read “The Kitchen House” upon Jenna’s suggestion (I think it was on this site?)…anyway, to me, it was so much better than The Help (which I really didn’t like) and I passed the recommendation to my mom, who loved it, and then to my friends, etc, etc. I love posts like these!

      And Jenna – you are missing NOTHING with the fifty shades trilogy. I couldn’t even make it through the first book. 🙂

  • Meghan
    May 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I will have to give this book a second chance too. I started it but never ended up getting very far in it. I think that was more due to wanting to read other books but it didn’t suck me in. I will have to pick it up again. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Amber
    May 20, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Have you ever checked out It asks you a few questions about your lifestyle and if you prefer romances, classics, quick reads, etc and you put in your favorite authors or titles and then it makes recommendations. It was spot on for me. And I do love your book recommendations. Keep it up.

  • Charlotte
    May 20, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Have you ever read Lisa See’s books? Snow flower and the secret fan will have you mesmerized! Love Love Love her stuff!

  • Debbi
    May 20, 2012 at 3:19 am

    I listened to Cutting for Stone and I can highly recommend the audio version. I only listened when I walked, and it sure kept me walking!

    I recently finished Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Excellent book about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Do check it out.

  • Jess@recipesandrunning
    May 20, 2012 at 4:06 am

    A couple of people mentioned that you should start an online book club and I know that your life sounds incredibly busy but I would have to agree! That is definitely something I would love to get involved with and be a part of. The books you read are ones that a lot of people would enjoy and I think it would be fantastic! A lot of the time I read a book – enjoy it – and the put it on the shelf and never think about it again. It would be nice to have a group of like-minded people to talk through it! Think about it!

  • joni
    May 20, 2012 at 5:43 am

    I just finished reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker. I LOVED it. It is somewhat similar to Cutting For Stone (which I also loved) but a bit of an easier read. Doesn’t the name just make you want to read it???

  • Lauren
    May 20, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I also found the beginning of this book to be PAINFULLY slow and could not understand what the fuss was about – but you’re right, after the first 100+ pages, it was well worth the read 🙂

  • Kristen
    May 20, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Wow, I second a lot of the recommendations above! I am currently re-reading The Girls by Lori Lansens (for my bookclub – my pick this year) about conjoined twins. It’s fabulous.

    • Christa
      May 22, 2012 at 6:56 am

      i loved that book Kristen! it was so interesting to read a book from the perspectives of “the girls” – i highly recommend this one too.

  • Melissa
    May 20, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I picked it up and put it down a month ago…have been meaning to start reading it again (and I’m a doctor in my residency too! i thought i should be into right away!) so thanks for giving me motivation to try again:)

    The book series taht will always be my favorite and that you should definitely read at some point in your life is Diana Gabaldon’s series…starts with Outlander and there are i believe 7 out so far. they will last you years (they’re huuuge books) and stick with you for a lifetime…

  • Molly
    May 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Haha, I too refuse to read Fifty Shades not because I’m offended by the kinky sex, but rather the poor writing! An older but wonderful book I’m enjoying is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Some more intense and interesting books I’ve been read recently: a graphic coming of age novel about a girl in Iran called Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (great movie too!); We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (also a great movie!); American Rust by Philipp Meyer; and Serve the People, a Chinese political satire/romance by Yan Lianke.

    • Sarah N
      May 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      The Fifty Shades trilogy is some of the worst writing I have ever read in my life. It’s so bad that seeing it on the top of the bestseller list makes me livid and want to throw things and yell at people. =P

  • LeAndra
    May 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Reading is my favorite hobby, and a friend recommended Wally Lamb’s books when I was in a recent slump. I started with I Know This Much Is True, and kept going with She’s Come Undone and The Hour I First Believed. I liked them most to least in that order, but they were all good enough reads to put Wally Lamb on my list of favorite writers. And though it’s nowhere near Christmas, his Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story had me laughing out loud last December. That one’s a much lighter read, but I think it shows his flexibility as a writer to write both deep novels and fun stories. I’m definitely looking forward to reading Cutting For Stone; thanks for sharing your review!

  • Sarah
    May 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I almost did not read it, either! Someone from work loaned it to me, and it just seemed so daunting. I haven’t gotten to the end, yet, but it has surpassed my expectations!

  • Sam @ Fit for My Fork
    May 21, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Have you read The Island by Victoria Hislop? I just finished it and it was a great book. It really brought an important part of Greek history to life and the way she writes is easy to read and easy to get into. I loved it! It’s about life in the leper colony on Spinalonga in Crete. I just visited Spinalonga last week and seeing where the lepers lived and where the story took place gave the book even more depth. I would highly recommend it!

  • Carolyn
    May 21, 2012 at 7:41 am

    I just started reading Moloka’i for my bookclub and love it! About a girl growing up in Hawaii around the turn of the century … she has leprosy! Check it out : )

  • Eliot
    May 21, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I read this book about a year ago and I had the same problem. It took almost 150 pages for me to get into it but several people had told me to just stick with it. It is by far one of the best books I’ve ever read.

  • Eileen
    May 21, 2012 at 10:11 am

    I recently read, “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It the story of two sisters during the Biafran War in Nigeria in the late 60s and early 70s. She is a fantastic writer and the story is really very good (and interesting because I knew very little about that war).

  • Lindsey
    May 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Three of my favorites are 1) Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund 2) The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and 3) Peace like a River by Leif Enger. I just read Peace like a River on my honeymoon and was a hot mess – crying like a baby!

    I LOVED Cutting for Stone and we seem to have very similar book taste, based on what I’ve seen you post. If you haven’t read any of those suggestions, pick one up!

    Also, don’t read 50 shades. Just don’t 🙂

  • Lisa Marie
    May 21, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Why not “Fifty Shades of Grey”? It’s surprising. If you can’t find a new book that catches you, which would be a hard task as there is so much good stuff out there, I always fall back on classics. “Great Gatsby” and such. All the best!

  • Sarah N
    May 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    “When We Were Strangers” by Pamela Schoenewaldt was excellent! But I may have found out about that one from you–I can’t remember–so maybe you’ve read it already. lol

  • Karen
    May 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    I just finished “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo. Absolutely incredible. She’s a writer for the New Yorker who spent 4 years in Mumbai slums researching the book.

  • rebekah ankney
    May 22, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I also put the book down after 20-30 pages but you may have inspired me to pick it up again…everyone raves about it so I have to push through! I recommend Moloki’a or Nefertiti as well as Nefertiti’s Daughter!

  • Diane
    May 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. Awesome book – could not put it down! Also Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. Two great reads!

  • em@simplypresent
    May 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Hmmm, I’ve been looking for a good book to read. I just discovered Elizaberth Berg and can’t put her books down, but I need variety.

  • Jen
    May 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    I absolutely loved this book! It took a few chapters to get into and had a few slow moments, but I loved it!

  • Janel
    May 25, 2012 at 5:01 am

    I have to say, Jenna, whatever books you recommend, I read! I’m currently in the middle of The World we Found and Still Alice and holy moly, they’re both incredible. You’re like the Oprah book club – thanks for all your great recommendations!

  • Lynda
    May 25, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Cutting for Stone was my favorite read – until I read The Bells.
    I’m highly recommending The Bells!

  • Tammy
    May 25, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I’ve been reading Cutting for Stone for the last couple of weeks and have just had a hard time. Your post came at a perfect time – I just have to finish it now.
    And I too agree, you should start an online book club.

  • Bighrtd
    May 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Well if you’re looking for something along the same lines then the “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver would be a great pick. It’s about a missionary family, the Prices, who in 1959 move from Georgia to the village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo.

    It’s a little hard to get in to, but I guarantee you if you get through the book, it will always be a favorite.

    • Bighrtd
      May 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      Oh and I’ve been reading Cutting For Stone now. I think the reason why it’s hard to stick with is because it is so easy to put down.

  • alex
    May 26, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    tough read, but absolutely one of my favorite books~

  • Mara
    May 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Great suggestions for novels! I am so excited to follow through on the recommendations. Many, mentioned, I have read and I must confess-your readers are top notch literary critics in that I agreed with almost every opinion.
    Cutting for Stone-it took me 125 pages to get hooked, but once I started to engage-fully-I stayed up all night to complete reading this dense, wonderful story-which stayed in my head for weeks after-a sign of an excellent read.

  • gwen
    June 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Thank you, thank you for recommending Cutting for Stone! I’d never heard of the book until I saw your post, but for some reason, your review stuck with me. I’m listening to the audiobook, and I literally can’t stop — it’s playing in the background while I write this!

  • Kate
    August 6, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Did you know many libraries have an online book club? Our does, and also lends our book club kits with multiple copies!

  • A. Len
    August 20, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Shantaram— a novel well worth the read.