This long novel was one of the best that I've read in 2016. Abraham Verghese's medical knowledge definitely shows up in his words, but so does his humanity. The conjoined twin brothers of Marion and Shiva will touch your heart and the rich, flowing river of descriptive words that Abraham weaves into this first novel will keep you glued to this book until the end - even with 541 pages to read.
You will probably end up picking sides between the brothers. That is just human nature, but along the way you will be left with a full and lasting impression of Ethiopia and the humanity of the brothers. The story of Thomas Stone and Sister Mary Joseph Praise will end and begin this novel but the middle is all about the boys. The twin sons, Shiva and Marion, who are orphaned when their mother dies in childbirth and their father disappears were separated at birth by the tissue that connected their heads. Raised by the unlikely couple of Hema and Ghosh, who eventually marry, the boys explore the grounds of Missing Hospital where they live. Hema and Ghosh both grow into their new roles of parenthood by being thrust into the job with the surprise birth of the boys, but they mostly learn how to make a family.
As the boys grow up with their doctor parents and family of friends at Missing, they learn how the world works inside their Missing compound and in their country of Ethiopia. Marion studies medicine at Ghosh's side from a small boy and up and eventually attends medical school. Shiva is brilliant and drawn to the study of pregnancy and childbirth. He wants to make the tortuous side effects of pregnancy in underdeveloped nations safer for the women involved.
During the rebellion to overthrow the king by one of his bodyguards who is a close friend of the family, Marion leaves to avoid arrest. He and Shiva have grown apart from their all most inseparability as children. They have an argument over the attentions of a playmate who was their third wheel growing up, Genet. This leaves the brothers estranged and living in different countries when Marion leaves to pursue his medical training in America.
There is so much more to this book than I can put in one blog posting. The detail of the writing and the descriptions of their childhood home will jump off of the page. Read this one and let me know how you liked the ending.