Cutting for Stone Book Review

Cutting for Stone

The NGC staff started the Documentary/Book Club to review resources we utilize in our programs and to find new ways to learn more about global issues. Feel free to email the reviewer (contact info below) if you have any follow-up questions!

Cutting for Stone, set in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, spans the course of a century in the lives of the denizens of Missing Hospital, centered on conjoined (and separated upon birth) twins Shiva and Marion Stone. The twins, sons of two of the hospital’s healthcare providers, grow up in the upheaval of 1960’s Ethiopia, in the midst of military coups and resistance movements. Growing up in the hospital, the boys experience the challenges that come with healthcare in the developing world.

Most importantly for New Global Citizens, one of the primary foci of the novel is the importance and paucity of maternal healthcare services in the developing world. Missing Hospital encounters women with obstructed labor, botched abortions, fetal death, and vaginal fistula. Fistula, or the abnormal connection between two organs or vessels, most often refers to the damage sustained by obstructed labor and forced delivery. When a birth is obstructed, the pressure in the birth canal often causes a tear in the vaginal wall passing through to either the anus or the urethra. This tear, if not repaired, will leak excrement almost constantly, rendering the woman unable to control her bowel or bladder activity.

The novel’s portrayal of rural health, fistula, and cultural challenges surrounding women and health in Ethiopia is accurate without causing the reader to pity the cast of characters. For a great read about one of the most complex Millenium Development Goals, I would highly recommend Cutting for Stone.

Fistula is still one of the leading challenges faced by mothers in many areas of the world. For current information on work being done to ensure safe births, check out the work of Edna Adan at Edna Adan University Hospital in Somaliland (commonly known as Somalia, bordering Ethiopia). If your team is interested in sponsoring a Global Project directly involved in treating fistula and providing high-quality maternal healthcare, check out the work of SEWA Rural.

Lisa Glenn, NGC Director of Programs, reviewed Cutting for Stone. To learn more about her, click here.

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