Absolutely stunning novel.
I had heard of the book for years. My mother was born in Ethiopia in the 1940s (my grandparents were missionaries from New Zealand), and several people had told me that the story in the novel resembled my mother’s experience there as a child. The book was purchased for me by an Ethiopian friend.
The story starts with an Indian nun traveling to Ethiopia in the mid-1940s to serve in a Catholic hospital. She meets and cares for a British surgeon on the trip (the British still controlled India at the time). After several years of serving alongside this surgeon in Ethiopia, the nun unexpectedly gives birth to twin boys.
(I’m giving nothing away. This is all described on the back cover.)
The book is the story of these twins. They grow up, ask questions about their history, and it all hurtles toward a wild resolution. This is set against the backdrop of political unrest in Eastern Africa throughout the 50s and 60s.
Verghese is a fantastic author. He explains nothing – he just describes things. The writing is lyrical, yet easy to follow. The plotting is consistent – the story keeps moving relentlessly forward. And the ending is satisfying – all questions are answered, and I read the last 100 pages without moving a muscle.