Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


He had so many ways of climbing the tree house in his head, escaping the madness below, and pulling the ladder up behind him; I was envious.

Our first night of our camping vacation we spent in a hotel, and in the morning I left my book between the sheets of a bed in strange town I may never visit again.

It wasn’t even my book. It belonged to Terri. A long time ago, I borrowed a different book from Terri and kept the thing sealed in a plastic bag when I wasn’t reading it. She drilled in me, from about the age of 13, the importance of taking care, and that drilling has spilled into my treatment of other people’s books, though not, sadly, into my housekeeping efforts. Except not Wednesday morning. I was too busy making sure everyone left the room with the shoes they wore into it the night before and so my book was overlooked.

I knew she’d accept the replacement copy I planned to buy as soon as I found a bookstore in Maine, but I was sad for me. For two nights I had to read a different book, when all I wanted to taste was the heat and dusty turmoil of Ethiopia.

A family vacation is a strange creature. I mean, you bring half the stress with you, and when you’re camping you still have to produce food three or four times a day or else all hell breaks loose. Still, it was a marvelous four days. We lounged, we swam, we wandered over a sand bar, found a village of cairns, and sat in stone chairs. We gazed hard at the horizon. It was glorious and ordinary in equal parts, exactly right.

And I found a new copy of Cutting for Stone in a bookstore, where I also found a new-to-us John Green for Tallis. I survived puberty by reading, and apparently my approach to parenting a pre-teen is to say things like, “Oh, I love this book, but it might be a tad old for you…” ensuring he’ll read it and then maybe, just maybe, the path to almost adulthood won’t be quite so fraught.

We arrived home yesterday evening, and after shuffling the boys into their beds and Michael into ours and then escaping to the couch for a dose of laptop time, I watched some of 35 Up, the Michael Apted series of interviews with the same people every seven years. If you haven’t seen it, go, watch it, it makes you think and feel. Tallis came down with a bellyache and curled up beside me to watch. He didn’t have much to say, except to comment on the 1980s hairstyles. We sat together on the couch with the dogs relieved at our feet. And then he went back to his bed and I went back to mine and we all woke up in our own house and that’s the best part of any vacation, for me: homecoming.

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