Did you ever go on a road trip with an eight year old and an eleven year old during which the older sibling decides a trip from Pennsylvania to South Carolina is the perfect time to teach her little brother the lyrics to “This is the Song That Never Ends”?
That’s kind of what reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone feels like.
I don’t mind 670 page books. I did write a chapter of my dissertation on Henry James, after all, and another on Sister Carrie. I’ve read Ulysses like the rest of you. I’ve even read The Making of Americans, a thousand pages of Gertrude Stein, which is what I imagine dropping acid feels like. No, I’m OK with really long books.
And I’m OK plot-driven books. I’m no snob; it can be all about the plot and the characters. I don’t need fancy themes and artistic motifs. What I’m not so good with are 670 plot-driven pages in which I never really care all that much about the characters. That would be Cutting for Stone.
It’s not that the plot wasn’t interesting; it’s just that the plot didn’t deserve 670 pages. A strong writer could have accomplished a lot more with the plot in, say, 283 pages, and maybe made me give a crap about the characters in the process.
With the kids and work and strawberry season, I only get 20 or so minutes a night for book reading, so it took me over a month to get through this book. That’s over a month of reading time I’ll never get back.
On the bright side, I borrowed it from a friend I’m seeing tomorrow, so as of tomorrow, it’ll be out of my life once and for all.