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Guest post: One reader's surprise meeting with Abraham Verghese

One of our readers contacted us recently to let us know that not only did she have the rare opportunity to meet Cutting for Stone author Abraham Verghese this September, but she made great use of her Bookclub-in-a-Box guide to prepare for her one-on-one meeting. We couldn’t resist sharing her story with you.

By Judy Shuhendler

While I was packing my suitcase for my impending trip to visit my son, Adam, and my daughter-in-law, Karey, in Palo Alto, California, I received a totally unexpected and mind-boggling e-mail. I had to read it several times before the message registered with me: I was going to meet Abraham Verghese in person!

Since we found out last spring that Adam was going to do a post-doctorate at Stanford University, I let my imagination get the best of me by visualizing a chance encounter with the author of my favourite book, Cutting for Stone. I knew from reading the Bookclub-in-a-Box guide to this heart-wrenching novel that Abraham Verghese teaches at Stanford U, and that, in fact, he has a secret office at the university where he does his writing.

As it turns out, Adam, knowing what an avid fan I was of Abraham, secretly e-mailed him to arrange a personal meeting with me during my upcoming visit. So needless to say, during the entire five-hour flight to San Francisco, I reviewed the storyline in my head and poured through and highlighted my Bookclub-in-a-Box guide to Cutting for Stone.  Fortunately, the guide included some background information on Abraham and his family—that he has three children, and that his parents were teachers (some common ground, since I am a teacher), so I felt a little more relaxed about our meeting.  I landed in San Fran at 9:30 a.m., and our meeting was set for 3:30 p.m. in his office at Stanford U.

As Adam and I approached Abraham’s office, we could see him coming down the hall in a lab coat, and Abraham confirmed that he had just completed teaching a class to med students. Adam didn’t want to make me more nervous than I already was, so he didn’t tell me before our meeting that Dr. Abraham Verghese has a list of credentials that is an arm long and that he is a distinguished, world-renowned doctor and professor, as well as an author. What I also found out during our conversation in his office, and from watching his lectures on Ted.com and reading more about him, was that he is a fascinating, sensitive, and thoughtful human being.

Over about 20 minutes in his well-lit, tidy, and book-laden office, we covered a great deal of territory. I asked Abraham if he had seen the Bookclub-in-a-Box guide to Cutting for Stone, and he literally jumped out of his seat, took the guide from me, and asked his receptionist to take a picture of us with his cell phone so that he could immediately e-mail it to me. He then asked his reception to order a guide for him a.s.a.p. In the end, I convinced him to keep my copy of the guide, and he gave me a copy of his first book, My Own Country, which offers further insight into his life, profession, and personality.

Abraham asked me about where I was from, my husband, my kids, and my profession… which led us into a discussion about his parents! I quickly realized that he wanted to share personal stories rather than talk about his book. I was so moved and amazed that he was so personable and that we had some things in common—including the knowledge that there is nothing more meaningful, revealing, and memorable than a story. Throughout my teaching profession, whether I was teaching children, teenagers, or adults, the underlying theme had been the importance and impact of stories.

I still felt that I wanted Abraham to know why Cutting for Stone had such a powerful influence on me. I told him the personal significance of the ending of his book and how it related to a family tragedy, and how it confirmed that the “spiritual healing journey” I chose to aid in my emotional survival was realistic and sensible. He was touched that I openly and honestly shared my story with him, and in turn, he shared some of his personal trials and tribulations.

At the end of our time together, I gave him a bottle of ice wine and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was unfamiliar with this kind of wine. I proudly flaunted my Canadianness by explaining what it was and that it was only made in two countries in the entire world, one of them being Canada.  I also gave him a bag of maple syrup candy to pass on to his kids. He couldn’t believe that I had brought him gifts, and, thankfully, he graciously accepted them.

Before we parted, I thanked Abraham and his receptionist profusely for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Once I was around the corner, I started hyperventilating again and fanning myself. Poor Adam thought we might need to sit down before I could tell him and Karey, who teared up at my delirious excitement, every detail of my exceptional visit with Abraham Verghese.

Want to check out the Bookclub-in-a-Box guide to Cutting for Stone? Click here to purchase the guide in print, PDF, or ebook format.

1 Comment

  1. Sharon Baltman says:

    Judy, I loved your story about meeting Abraham Verghese. So well-written. Good for you. I have his book,”My Own Country,” on my own pile, waiting to be read.


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