I have no idea why it took me so long to read this book. I picked it up at least a year ago and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. I think I mixed up the plot with another book. Or perhaps it’s because the plot summary on the back just doesn’t do the book justice.
Read this book.
It starts with an Indian nun working in a hospital in Ethiopia. Shockingly she’s in labor and it’s not going well. She dies giving birth to what turns out to be conjoined twins (they are immediately separated). The man who is the father flees, leaving the twins virtually orphans.
They are adopted by Hema and Ghosh, two other doctors at the hospital, and grow up in the political unrest of Ethiopia.
The narrator of the story is Marion, one of the twins. The world is seen through his eyes, eyes who love his neighbor and seem to both deeply understand and be mystified by his brother. He sees himself as part of the ShivaMarion whole, and yet watching his brother blossom into a medical genius.
To me, the novel was about belonging and never belonging. Marion is part of a loving family and a loving community and yet he is Indian in an African country and an orphan. He is half of the twin whole and yet seems to always be outside his brother looking in.
Dramatic events take Marion to the US and into new worlds where he doesn’t belong. His medical abilities should make him part of the establishment, but circumstances conspire to keep him on the outside.
This is the kind of book you could read again and again and find new layers within it. My only complaint is that near the end of the book Marion does a few things that are brushed off as inconsequential, but made me strongly dislike him, which was unfortunate.
If you have this book sitting on your shelf, pick it up and read it.