Author(s): Tracy KidderDownload
This powerful and inspiring book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.Tracy Kidder is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the author of the bestsellers The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, and Home Town. He has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the “master of the non-fiction narrative.” This powerful and inspiring new book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.At the center of Mountains Beyond Mountains stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results.Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity”—a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners in Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.”Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with the force of a gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr says, “[Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”
Some Reviews: 4654 in Goodreads.com
I am not really sure where to begin when it comes to this book. Let us just say that Tracy Kidder writes a mean biography/account of perhaps one of the most influential people of our (Generation iPod/big box stores) time. This book really encapsulates what I imagine Paul Farmer’s credo is; that is to say, fuck the idea of appropriate technology, sustainability and cost-effectiveness this is human suffering that we are flapping our tongues about…get real.
Sheer eloquence I know…
I am sure that this appeals to many a PCV out there and particularly Health Volunteers because it advocates and condones what we feel every time we run into Djeneba who is sick with Sumaya or Traore Chekoroba who’s got Amoebic dysentery,that “wish I could ease your suffering feeling”, part of it can very well be empathy, because I know a great deal of us have been in similar situations while in country. But it always seems to me,empathy never gets us anywhere with out the proper training or funds to make a true difference in people’s lives (I imagine Dr. Farmer would probably say that that feeling was half an accomplishment, the rest comes later 🙂 ).
Yet, Paul Farmer realizes the healing of suffering on what seems every scale, from the creation of health policy at the highest echelons of international bodies to the curing of the individual sick right in their very homes.
Reading this made me feel inspired and motivated…don’t mean to gush too much though, people might start to think I am kissing both the author’s and Paul Farmer’s culo.
Also I believe this book has given me the inclination to read others like it, whether it be novels with strong social commentary (Graham Greene) to papers that describe the tenets of liberation theology. So if any of you rapscallions out there have any books to recommend, please shoot those suggestions my way!
I deliberately chose to read the “Adapted for Young People” version not because I dislike Tracy Kidder (on the contrary, I generally really enjoy his books) but because I knew this was a subject that would cause me to gnash my teeth, stomp my tiny feet, and rage and rage. Also, I was fully prepared for the idea that I wouldn’t necessarily like Dr. Paul Farmer.
That’s two to me.
Being broke is tough. Being poor when everyone you know is just as poor, and illiterate, and ill, as well as hungry, that’s not merely tough, that’s deadly. Paul Farmer met Haitian farmworkers while he was a student and Duke. By the time he’d completed his medical and anthropology training at Harvard he was already firmly established as the primary caregiver for the inhabitants of the central plateau of Haiti. Since then he has done astounding work in multi-drug resistant TB treatment and AIDs treatment among the poorest peoples in the world. He’s developed widely repeated drug protocols as well as a much-copied healthcare clinic. Everyone should have such a caring and creative doctor.
And yes, sometimes he is annoying because he has eidetic memory, and only needs to sleep four hours a night, and he is banging his head against stupid bureaucracy, and poor logic, and the worst kind of social injustice, every single day.
He is, I think, a kind of living saint, a man who has thrown himself entirely and completely into looking after the sick, the poor, the imprisoned. And the authors make it clear that this is hard, hard work. Good on him. He should make us all feel uncomfortable and guilty, because no matter how much good we might do with our lives, we aren’t doing as much good as he is.
I wish there were more people in this world like Paul Farmer, a doctor who specializes in medical anthropology and infectious diseases. Tracy Kidder followed him around the world for parts of three years to research this book. Paul Farmer brought treatment for TB, AIDS and Malaria to thousands of people in Haiti, Russia, and Peru. He would hike for seven hours to remote areas in Haiti to treat people. There are so many inspiring moments in this book. His philosophy was “the only real nation is humanity.” This book was published in 2003 and the epilogue in the copy I have was from 2009. The last sentence sums it up for me which the author says “Now that I am no longer scrutinizing him, I think of him simply as a friend. I don’t idolize him, but I am grateful that he is living on this planet.” What a remarkable person. It gives me hope that maybe the human race has a chance.
I just finished this amazing account of the work of Paul Farmer. Farmer is a medical anthropologist, who travels the world (including Peru, Russia and Haiti). His name is one of the best known in international medical circles. He is a champion for the poor, and not just the American poor, but those who are oppressively, chronically poor-with barely any hope of ever seeing a doctor in their lives. Tracy Kidder dos an amazing job of chronicling his time spent with Farmer, traveling back and forth to Haiti and all over the globe. Farmer has been working in Haiti for over 30 years, since before he started medical school, and as Kidder writes in his book, “Farmer is like a compass-one leg swinging all over the world, and one firmly planted in Haiti. Farmer’s mission is to help as many people as possible, medically, and then help them in any way to make their lives a bit more comfortable. Maybe, even pull them out of their poverty in the tiniest bit. Kidder’s account of Farmers work, makes the reader want to do something, anything to help those who are less fortunate. I believe him to be one of the most giving individuals on this planet, and in truth, he sees himself as not doing enough. He has truly dedicated his life to helping those less fortunate. Those individuals, who, who, we as Americans, probably don’t give a second thought to. I feel like I could never measure up to his standards. A truly amazing person, who I think we could all learn a small lesson from.
I think this would be a great book for a high school sociology class, or even a world history class. I think that the topic will only get more and more relevant as time passes. Kidder does an amazing job of showing the different points of view of the poor, of Farmer, and the POV of the observer to such amazing selflessness.
I find it difficult to describe this book. There is a line in it that says something to the effect of: Don’t let perfect get in the way of good. That describes the book as well as the doctor that the book is about. The good that this doctor has brought about and continues to bring about, and the good that the book has brought about by publicizing this, is hard to overestimate. While there are mistakes made by those who are working to bring about good, when we criticize their mistakes and hide our own guilt behind that criticism, we are the hypocrites. Dr. Farmer has unreal dedication and cuts through the intellectual fluff that we as a privileged society often hide behind, and shows that curing the world is not only possible, but even probable, if enough people make the goal to do it. This book makes me re-evaluate my life’s purpose and what I am doing to help others. I have far to go. Read the book. It’s life-changing.
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