There is a line in the Hippocratic Oath that says: I will not cut for stone... It stems from the days when bladder stones were epidemic and lithologists would cut either into the bladder or the perineum to get the stone out. However, as they cleaned the knife by wiping it on their blood-stiffened surgical aprons, patients usually died of infection the next day.

The literal meaning of the phrase did not entirely inspire the title of Verghese’s novel. “Cutting for Stone” also explains the surname of its main characters and, in the words of the author, has “has several levels of meaning in the context of the narrative.”

The Stanford professor of medicine spent eight years writing the book, which begins in a hospital in Ethiopia and ends in a hospital in New York City, its action taking place within the arc of two terrifying procedures. A nun from Madras dies giving birth to conjoined twins and their father, who cannot bear the loss, flees. So Marion and Shiva are raised by two Indian doctors at the same hospital where the boys’ natural parents also worked.

They Cojas the novel progresses. Even though the brothers become more and more distant, they retain a telepathic connection and Marion, also the narrator, believes he can recall their relationship from the time they were together in the womb.

“Cutting for Stone owes its goodness to something greater than plot. It would not be possible to give away the story by simply telling you what happens. Verghese creates this story so lovingly that it is actually possible to live within it for the brief time one spends with this book. You may never leave the chair.... Lush and exotic...richly written,” writes Susan Salter Reynolds in Los Angeles Times. The novel stayed on the New York Times fiction bestseller list for well over two years and is now one of Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime.

Published in 2009.