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Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

4.2 171
by Tracy Kidder

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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


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.” 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.”

Editorial Reviews

"Mountains Beyond Mountains," writes Ann Fadiman, "is the only book I've read in years that made me feel like cheering." Annie Dillard writes that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder has written a book that "unfolds with the force of gathering revelation." At the center of Kidder's exciting moral adventure is Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-trained physician who decided to take his expertise and kindness on the road. In his bright-eyed quest to cure the world, Farmer has battled AIDS and other infectious diseases in Haiti, Cuba, Russia, and Peru. Kidder's powerful narrative about a hero who believes that "God loves everyone but especially the poor" will inspire and challenge every reader.
The Barnes & Noble Review
When a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner stumbles upon a crusading Harvard physician and medical anthropologist battling TB and crushing poverty in Haiti ("the most disease-ridden country in the hemisphere"), the result is nothing short of a defining moment in publishing.

For his first foray into biography, Tracy Kidder, a master of the nonfiction narrative (Hometown, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, The Soul of a New Machine), applies his journalistic expertise and gentle storytelling skills to the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious-disease expert who's made the world's poorest and sickest his life work.

Kidder weaves a tale that is full of drama, hope, and triumph, as he accompanies the pale, skinny, disheveled doctor from the mud huts of rural Haiti and the slums of Peru to Siberia's prisons, where drug-resistant strains of TB thrive.

Writing in the first person but only occasionally interjecting himself into the story, the author recounts Farmer's unconventional childhood and describes his grueling travel schedule on behalf of his nonprofit organization, Partners in Health, and his saintly devotion to his cause.

More than a biography of Dr. Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains is a chilling head-on look at global public health care. Trite as it sounds, this is a book that has the power to change everyone who reads it. Sallie Brady

USA Today
Kidder, author of Among Schoolchildren, focuses on many aspects of Farmer's life. As a renowned journalist, he examines the dedication that pushes Farmer to success. He traveled with Farmer for six years, interviewing his friends and family and creating a compelling bond with the man.

In this masterpiece, Kidder will take you so deep into their journeys that you can almost feel the oppressive Haitian heat. — Nicholas Thomas

The New York Times
Dr. Farmer does not have anywhere near the name recognition of, say, Albert Schweitzer or Mother Teresa. But if any one person can be given credit for transforming the medical establishment's thinking about health care for the destitute, it is Paul Farmer.

So readers are lucky that Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World has been published, not only because the extraordinary Dr. Farmer deserves the attention, but also because a sensitive and graceful writer like Tracy Kidder has chosen to tell his story. The result is a tale that inspires, discomforts and provokes. — Patricia Cohen

NY Times Sunday Book Review
Mountains Beyond Mountains is inspiring, disturbing, daring and completely absorbing. It will rattle our complacency; it will prick our conscience. One senses that Farmer's life and work has affected Kidder, and it is a measure of Kidder's honesty that he is willing to reveal this to the reader. — Abraham Verghese
The Washington Post
Two other things I like about this book: First, it's full of suspense, in an odd way. On every page, I wondered whether Farmer was going to be meek and gentle, as he often is with his patients, or whether he was going to turn his wrath on me, the reader. To the very end, Farmer made me nervous...Second, it's a great Washington, D.C. public policy book. It's an elegant argument about why everything you learn at the Kennedy School of Government or World Bank is wrong.—Thomas Geoghegan
Publishers Weekly
In this excellent work, Pulitzer Prize-winner Kidder (The Soul of a New Machine) immerses himself in and beautifully explores the rich drama that exists in the life of Dr. Paul Farmer. A Massachusetts native who has been working in Haiti since 1982, Farmer founded Zanmi Lasante (Creole for Partners in Health), a nongovernmental organization that is the only health-care provider for hundreds of thousands of peasant farmers in the Plateau Central. He did this while juggling work in Haiti and study at the Harvard Medical School. (Farmer received his M.D. and a Ph.D. in anthropology simultaneously in 1990.) During his work in Haiti, Farmer pioneered a community-based treatment method for patients with tuberculosis that, Kidder explains, has had better clinical outcomes than those in U.S. inner cities. For this work, Farmer was recognized in 1993 with a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," all of which he donated to Zanmi Lasante. Using interviews with family members and various friends and associates, Kidder provides a sympathetic account of Farmer's early life, from his idiosyncratic family to his early days in Haiti. Kidder also recounts his time with Farmer as he travels to Moscow; Lima, Peru; Boston; and other cities where Farmer relentlessly seeks funding and educates people about the hard conditions in Haiti. Throughout, Kidder captures the almost saintly effect Farmer has on those whom he treats. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his latest work, Pulitzer Prize winner Kidder (Among Schoolchildren; The Soul of a New Machine) turns his documentarian gaze on the life and work of Paul Farmer, a medical anthropologist and physician who has spent much of the past 20 years transforming healthcare in the impoverished central plateau of Haiti. Part biography, part public health text, and part travelog, his book follows Farmer from his childhood in Florida and Harvard medical education to his establishment of the Haitian clinic Zanmi Lasante and current status as an international expert in treating communicable diseases, such as AIDS and tuberculosis. Farmer's work is fascinating-as is the author's compassionate portrayal of the lives of the Haitians with whom his subject lives and works; if the book has a flaw, it is that it attempts to cover too much territory. Instead of trying to cram three books into one, Kidder could have taken any one of the three approaches that he used and made a complete and captivating study. However, he does include an excellent annotated bibliography for readers who desire more information on any of the themes covered in the book. Recommended for public libraries and public health collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/03.]-Eris Weaver, Redwood Health Lib., Petaluma, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Thought-provoking and profoundly satisfying, this book will inspire feelings of humility, admiration, and disquietude; in some readers, it may sow the seeds of humanitarian activism. As a specialist in infectious diseases, Farmer's goal is nothing less than redressing the "steep gradient of inequality" in medical service to the desperately poor. His work establishing a complex of public health facilities on the central plateau of Haiti forms the keystone to efforts that now encompass initiatives on three continents. Farmer and a trio of friends began in the 1980s by creating a charitable foundation called Partners in Health (PIH, or Zanmi Lasante in Creole), armed with passionate conviction and $1 million in seed money from a Boston philanthropist. Kidder provides anecdotal evidence that their early approach to acquiring resources for the Haitian project at times involved a Robin Hood type of "redistributive justice" by liberating medical equipment from the "rich" (Harvard) and giving to the "poor" (the PIH clinic). Yet even as PIH has grown in size and sophistication, gaining the ability to influence and collaborate with major international organizations because of the founders' energy, professional credentials, and successful outcomes, their dedicated vision of doctoring to the poor remains unaltered. Farmer's conduct is offered as a "road map to decency," albeit an uncompromising model that nearly defies replication. This story is remarkable, and Kidder's skill in sequencing both dramatic and understated elements into a reflective commentary is unsurpassed.-Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Full-immersion journalist Kidder (Home Town, 1999, etc.) tries valiantly to keep up with a front-line, muddy-and-bloody general in the war against infectious disease in Haiti and elsewhere. The author occasionally confesses to weariness in this gripping account—and why not? Paul Farmer, who has an M.D. and a Ph.D. from Harvard, appears to be almost preternaturally intelligent, productive, energetic, and devoted to his causes. So trotting alongside him up Haitian hills, through international airports and Siberian prisons and Cuban clinics, may be beyond the capacity of a mere mortal. Kidder begins with a swift account of his first meeting with Farmer in Haiti while working on a story about American soldiers, then describes his initial visit to the doctor’s clinic, where the journalist felt he’d "encountered a miracle." Employing guile, grit, grins, and gifts from generous donors (especially Boston contractor Tom White), Farmer has created an oasis in Haiti where TB and AIDS meet their Waterloos. The doctor has an astonishing rapport with his patients and often travels by foot for hours over difficult terrain to treat them in their dwellings ("houses" would be far too grand a word). Kidder pauses to fill in Farmer’s amazing biography: his childhood in an eccentric family sounds like something from The Mosquito Coast; a love affair with Roald Dahl’s daughter ended amicably; his marriage to a Haitian anthropologist produced a daughter whom he sees infrequently thanks to his frenetic schedule. While studying at Duke and Harvard, Kidder writes, Farmer became obsessed with public health issues; even before he’d finished his degrees he was spending much of his time in Haiti establishing theclinic that would give him both immense personal satisfaction and unsurpassed credibility in the medical worlds he hopes to influence. Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being. Agent: Georges Borchardt
From the Publisher
“In this excellent work, Pulitzer Prize—winner Kidder immerses himself in and beautifully explores the rich drama that exists in the life of Dr. Paul Farmer…Throughout, Kidder captures the almost saintly effect Farmer has on those whom he treats.”
-Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“[A] Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.”
-Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A fine writer and his extraordinary subject: Tracy Kidder, in giving us Paul Farmer, lifts up an image of hope–and challenge–that the world urgently needs. Simply put, this is an important book.” -James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword

“The central character of this marvelous book is one of the most provocative, brilliant, funny, unsettling, endlessly energetic, irksome, and charming characters ever to spring to life on the page. He has embarked on an epic struggle that will take you from the halls of Harvard Medical School to a sun-scorched plateau in Haiti, from the slums of Peru to the cold gray prisons of Moscow. He wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”—Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action

“A profoundly inspiring and important book about one of the truly great men of our time.” —Ethan Canin, author of Carry Me Across the Water

“Here is a genuine hero alive in our times. Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with the force of gathering revelation. Like all of Tracy Kidder’s books, it is as hard to put down as any good and true story.”—Annie Dillard, author of The Writing Life

Mountains Beyond Mountains is the only book I’ve read in years that made me feel like cheering. It left me uncomfortable, guilty, and exhausted—but it also inspired me, kept me up all night, and moved me to tears. Some readers will find their lives changed forever; everyone else will emerge, at the very least, with an unexpectedly revised set of values. Tracy Kidder has given us not only an unforgettable book but an unignorable life lesson. Hurrah!” —Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

“Rarely has idealism fared so well on the planet as in Tracy Kidder’s eloquently reported Mountains Beyond Mountains. One is tempted to call Paul Farmer’s passionate sensibilities and loving ambitions otherworldly, but only in sadness that there are too few of him in the world. Kidder has provided us all, as the Farmerites say, with a road map to decency, and such an endowment is beyond measure.” —Bob Shacochis, author of Easy in the Islands

"Is there anything Tracy Kidder can't do? This is a beautiful book, and a masterful one. Even better, Mountains Beyond Mountains is a page-turner that will crack your conscience open." -Stacey Schiff, author of Vera

“An incredible story about an incredible man told by an incredible writer. Mountains Beyond Mountains is the sort of book that makes you want to buy a hundred copies and pass them out like a street corner evangelist. It's the sort of book that will affect your life in a profound way. In a good way.” -Thom Jones, author of The Pugilist at Rest

“Saints are notoriously difficult people, but who knew one could be so funny, so utterly charming, and finally so deft in accomplishing that most impossible of all job descriptions—changing the world? Tracy Kidder's spellbinding story presents us with an unlikely saint and finally, with inspiration so compelling it makes the usual cynicism about global change seem indulgent foolishness.”
-Patricia Hampl, author of A Romantic Education

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Read an Excerpt

Six years after the fact, Dr. Paul Edward Farmer reminded me, “We met because of a beheading, of all things.”

It was two weeks before Christmas 1994, in a market town in the central plateau of Haiti, a patch of paved road called Mirebalais. Near the center of town there was a Haitian army outpost–a concrete wall enclosing a weedy parade field, a jail, and a mustard-colored barracks. I was sitting with an American Special Forces captain, named Jon Carroll, on the building’s second-story balcony. Evening was coming on, the town’s best hour, when the air changed from hot to balmy and the music from the radios in the rum shops and the horns of the tap-taps passing through town grew loud and bright and the general filth and poverty began to be obscured, the open sewers and the ragged clothing and the looks on the faces of malnourished children and the extended hands of elderly beggars plaintively saying, “Grangou,” which means “hungry” in Creole.

I was in Haiti to report on American soldiers. Twenty thousand of them had been sent to reinstate the country’s democratically elected government, and to strip away power from the military junta that had deposed it and ruled with great cruelty for three years. Captain Carroll had only eight men, and they were temporarily in charge of keeping the peace among 150,000 Haitians, spread across about one thousand square miles of rural Haiti. A seemingly impossible job, and yet, out here in the central plateau, political violence had all but ended. In the past month, there had been only one murder. Then again, it had been spectacularly grisly. A few weeks back, Captain Carroll’s men had fished the headless corpse of the assistant mayor of Mirebalais out of the Artibonite River. He was one of the elected officials being restored to power. Suspicion for his murder had fallen on one of the junta’s local functionaries, a rural sheriff named Nerva Juste, a frightening figure to most people in the region. Captain Carroll and his men had brought Juste in for questioning, but they hadn’t found any physical evidence or witnesses. So they had released him.

The captain was twenty-nine years old, a devout Baptist from Alabama. I liked him. From what I’d seen, he and his men had been trying earnestly to make improvements in this piece of Haiti, but Washington, which had decreed that this mission would not include “nation-building,” had given them virtually no tools for that job. On one occasion, the captain had ordered a U.S. Army medevac flight for a pregnant Haitian woman in distress, and his commanders had reprimanded him for his pains. Up on the balcony of the barracks now, Captain Carroll was fuming about his latest frustration when someone said there was an American out at the gate who wanted to see him.

There were five visitors actually, four of them Haitians. They stood in the gathering shadows in front of the barracks, while their American friend came forward. He told Captain Carroll that his name was Paul Farmer, that he was a doctor, and that he worked in a hospital here, some miles north of Mirebalais.

I remember thinking that Captain Carroll and Dr. Farmer made a mismatched pair, and that Farmer suffered in the comparison. The captain stood about six foot two, tanned and muscular. As usual, a wad of snuff enlarged his lower lip. Now and then he turned his head aside and spat. Farmer was about the same age but much more delicate-looking. He had short black hair and a high waist and long thin arms, and his nose came almost to a point. Next to the soldier, he looked skinny and pale, and for all of that he struck me as bold, indeed downright cocky.

He asked the captain if his team had any medical problems. The captain said they had some sick prisoners whom the local hospital had refused to treat. “I ended up buyin’ the medicine myself.”

Farmer flashed a smile. “You’ll spend less time in Purgatory.” Then he asked, “Who cut off the head of the assistant mayor?”

“I don’t know for sure,” said the captain.

“It’s very hard to live in Haiti and not know who cut off someone’s head,” said Farmer.

A circuitous argument followed. Farmer made it plain he didn’t like the American government’s plan for fixing Haiti’s economy, a plan that would aid business interests but do nothing, in his view, to relieve the suffering of the average Haitian. He clearly believed that the United States had helped to foster the coup–for one thing, by having trained a high official of the junta at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. Two clear sides existed in Haiti, Farmer said–the forces of repression and the Haitian poor, the vast majority. Farmer was on the side of the poor. But, he told the captain, “it still seems fuzzy which side the American soldiers are on.” Locally, part of the fuzziness came from the fact that the captain had released the hated Nerva Juste.

I sensed that Farmer knew Haiti far better than the captain, and that he was trying to impart some important information. The people in this region were losing confidence in the captain, Farmer seemed to be saying, and this was a serious matter, obviously, for a team of nine soldiers trying to govern 150,000 people.

But the warning wasn’t entirely plain, and the captain got a little riled up at Farmer’s denunciation of the School of the Americas. As for Nerva Juste, he said, “Look, that guy is a bad guy. When I do have him and the evidence, I’ll slam him.” He slapped a fist into his hand. “But I’m not gonna stoop to the level of these guys and make summary arrests.”

Farmer replied, in effect, that it made no sense for the captain to apply principles of constitutional law in a country that at the moment had no functioning legal system. Juste was a menace and should be locked up.

So they reached a strange impasse. The captain, who described himself as “a redneck,” arguing for due process, and Farmer, who clearly considered himself a champion of human rights, arguing for preventive detention. Eventually, the captain said, “You’d be surprised how many decisions about what I can do here get made in Washington.”

And Farmer said, “I understand you’re constrained. Sorry if I’ve been haranguing.”

It had grown dark. The two men stood in a square of light from the open barracks door. They shook hands. As the young doctor disappeared into the shadows, I heard him speaking Creole to his Haitian friends.

I stayed with the soldiers for several weeks. I didn’t think much about Farmer. In spite of his closing words, I didn’t think he understood or cared to sympathize with the captain’s problems.

Then by chance I ran into him again, on my way home, on the plane to Miami. He was sitting in first-class. He explained that the flight attendants put him there because he often flew this route and on occasion dealt with medical emergencies on board. The attendants let me sit with him for a while. I had dozens of questions about Haiti, including one about the assistant mayor’s murder. The soldiers thought that Voodoo beliefs conferred a special, weird terror on decapitation. “Does cutting off the victim’s head have some basis in the history of Voodoo?” I asked.

“It has some basis in the history of brutality,” Farmer answered. He frowned, and then he touched my arm, as if to say that we all ask stupid questions sometimes.

I found out more about him. For one thing, he didn’t dislike soldiers. “I grew up in a trailer park, and I know which economic class joins the American military.” He told me, speaking of Captain Carroll, “You meet these twenty-nine-year-old soldiers, and you realize, Come on, they’re not the ones making the bad policies.” He confirmed my impression, that he’d visited the captain to warn him. Many of Farmer’s patients and Haitian friends had complained about the release of Nerva Juste, saying it proved the Americans hadn’t really come to help them. Farmer told me he was driving through Mireba- lais and his Haitian friends were teasing him, saying he didn’t dare stop and talk to the American soldiers about the murder case, and then the truck got a flat tire right outside the army compound, and he said to his friends, “Aha, you have to listen to messages from angels.”

I got Farmer to tell me a little about his life. He was thirty-five. He had graduated from Harvard Medical School and also had a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard. He worked in Boston four months of the year, living in a church rectory in a slum. The rest of the year he worked without pay in Haiti, mainly doctoring peasants who had lost their land to a hydroelectric dam. He had been expelled from Haiti during the time of the junta but had sneaked back to his hospital. “After the payment,” he said, “of an insultingly small bribe.”

I looked for him after the plane landed. We talked some more in a coffee shop, and I nearly missed my connecting flight. A few weeks later, I took him to dinner in Boston, hoping he could help make sense of what I was trying to write about Haiti, which he seemed glad to do. He clarified some of the history for me but left me wondering about him. He had described himself as “a poor people’s doctor,” but he didn’t quite fit my preconception of such a person. He clearly liked the fancy restaurant, the heavy cloth napkins, the good bottle of wine. What struck me that evening was how happy he seemed with his life. Obviously, a young man with his advantages could have been doing good works as a doctor while commuting between Boston and a pleasant suburb–not between a room in what I imagined must be a grubby church rectory and the wasteland of central Haiti. The way he talked, it seemed he actually enjoyed living among Haitian peasant farmers. At one point, speaking about medicine, he said, “I don’t know why everybody isn’t excited by it.” He smiled at me, and his face turned bright, not red so much as glowing, a luminescent smile. It affected me quite strongly, like a welcome gladly given, one you didn’t have to earn.

But after our dinner I drifted out of touch with him, mainly, I now think, because he also disturbed me. Writing my article about Haiti, I came to share the pessimism of the soldiers I’d stayed with. “I think we should have left Haiti to itself,” one of Captain Carroll’s men had said to me. “Does it really matter who’s in power? They’re still gonna have the rich and the poor and no one in between. I don’t know what we hope to accomplish. We’re still going to have a shitload of Haitians in boats wanting to go to America. But, I guess it’s best not even to try and figure it out.” The soldiers had come to Haiti and lifted a terror and restored a government, and then they’d left and the country was just about as poor and broken-down as when they had arrived. They had done their best, I thought. They were worldly and tough. They wouldn’t cry about things beyond their control.

I felt as though, in Farmer, I’d been offered another way of thinking about a place like Haiti. But his way would be hard to share, because it implied such an extreme definition of a term like “doing one’s best.”

The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them or, when you do, to send money. Over the next five years, I mailed some small sums to the charity that supported Farmer’s hospital in Haiti. He sent back handwritten thank-you notes on each occasion. Once, from a friend of a friend, I heard he was doing something notable in international health, something to do with tuberculosis. I didn’t look into the details, though, and I didn’t see him again until near the end of 1999. I was the one who made the appointment. He named the place.

Meet the Author

Tracy Kidder has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Award, among other literary prizes. The author of The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, Old Friends, and Home Town, Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.

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Mountains Beyond Mountains 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 171 reviews.
sweetpeaSP More than 1 year ago
This book is incredibly inspiring and should be read by anyone who wonders if there is any good left in the world. This is the true story about Dr. Paul Farmer. Through his strength of character, brilliant medical mind and deep love and admiration for people, he builds a medical community which to this day is operating in Haiti. Run primarily by Haitian doctors, Partners in Health has become a model for native medical care throughout the world. This book is amazing, a must read for anyone thinking of going into or working in public health. Kidder describes Haiti and the journeys of Paul Farmer with such finesse, beauty and curiosity and the book paints a vivid picture of the trials and tribulations of working in public health in a foreign world. Wonderful!
Shannon1TC More than 1 year ago
A book that clearly shows what is possible with rugged determination, hard work and and extraordinary sacrifice but also shows the myriad ways in which you may be called to help. Not everyone is called to emulate the life of Dr. Paul Farmer but all are called to live with the same passion and caring for human life as Paul had. We all can look to Paul's life as a testament to what can happen when you look beyond the labels that we like to place on people and become willing to stand up for their right to have their basice needs met. Paul had to be more than just a visionary but also had to be willing to do the hard work of making the vision a reality. The in-depth manner in which this book portrays the risks taken and energy spent year upon year should serve as an inspiration for those that are still in the earlier stages of trying to realize a vision and wonder whether their efforts are in vain. The real breauty of this book is the context in which it was written. Viewing Paul from the writer's perspective and how he experienced him was ingenious as it makes Paul much more real. It shows both his incredible talents and his pretty significant flaws. By doing so, Dr. Farmer becomes someone you can relate to and that you feel you can learn from though you may never be called to do what he has done. The book also shows that behind every public figure that's out making an impact there's an arsenal of individuals working diligently behind the scene. Individuals such as Jim Kim, Ophelia Dahl, and Tom White are just as critical to the successes experienced at Zamni Lasante and other projects as Paul was. It's great to see these individuals also profiled in the book and given the recognition that they deserved.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tracy Kidder's brilliant biography of Dr. Paul Farmer is at once disturbing and exhilarating: disturbing, as it points out all the inequalities in living conditions and health care between the rich and the poor and the staggering statistics about disease and the lack of available medical aid in many parts of the world, and exhilarating to read the selfless commitment of one man to change these situations. Not only is the information in this inordinately readable book fascinating but also the superb writing style of Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder is some of the best to be published in recent years. Kidder concerns his book with one Paul Farmer, a poor lad who grew up nearly homeless (unless one calls living on a riverboat a home) in Alabama, a gifted thinker who climbed out of his beginnings to discover the inequities in the big world, went to medical school at Harvard, and then proceeded to commit his life to changing the pitiful poverty and disease-ridded Haiti, establishing not only viable medical centers but also spreading his warm personality into the hinterlands of that little country making day-long walking housecalls for the poor families who as human beings deserve as fine a quality of medicine as those who live near the wealthy comforts of the major city medical centers. How Kidder accompanied and observed Farmer as he sought funding and supplies and training not only in Haiti, where the diseases of tuberculosis and AIDS were decimating the population while the world just silently watched, but also extending his beneficence to Peru and to the prisons of Russia, attack tuberculosis and AIDS with the same ardor is the basis of this book. Farmer's accomplishments created the Partners in Health organization that in turn stimulated the World Health Organization to wake up to the disasters that reign in the third world countries, eventually supplying the much needed medicines, cash, buildings and personnel to begin to make a change in the world health care. Kidder's gift as a writer lies not only in his detailed and well researched biography of a modern saint, but also in his ability to allow us to get to know the very human creature named Paul Farmer. He touches on his personal life, his struggles with his own diseases (he nearly died from hepatitis), and his indomitable spirit in facing a bureaucratic conundrum that prevented the poor of the world from receiving care. It is a touching story, it is a superlative investigation into one man's spirit and selfless commitment, and it is a book that demands our attention on many levels. Tracy Kidder's sharing of Dr. Paul Farmer's life is a poignant reminder that the individual CAN make a difference: it is a matter or devotion to an ideal that can become a reality despite obstructions the world places in the path. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book takes the word inspiration to a new meaning. You learn not only about the significant accomplishments of Dr. Paul Farmer and the organization Partners in Health, but also about the unbelievable poverty that many cities face every day. You realize how lucky you truly are to even have access to the medical facilities that are in your area, and you begin to appreciate, if you have not already, even the slight knowledge that you have embraced about infectious diseases. Some of us believe we are poor and constantly drawing the short stick of every situation, but after reading this book the word "impossible" will completely leave your vocabulary. Mountains Beyond Mountains does not only inform you of a great cause and the awful conditions of 3rd world countries, but it will also set your mind into determination mode. Whether you are determined to help the global health community or any other subject matter that you are passionate about, I guarantee you will not stop until you have reached your goal.
Raj_Jaye More than 1 year ago
Be forewarned that reading this book will change the way you see the world. This book is written is an easily accessible, narrative style. While the subject matter is very important and is a BIG concept, the writing itself is conversational: not too elevated or esoteric, and nothing snobby, and yet it is a profound tale, with many layers, and one that will change your outlook and your understanding of economics, medicine, politics, religion, social justice, family life, and business ethics. I found it easy to read and hard to put down. The story of Dr. Farmer's care for the least of his brothers and sisters caused me to ask myself, "What am I doing to make the world a better place??" I loved it and have shared it with many others, including my own physician.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder, was very interesting and educational. Dr. Farmer is a miracle worker in Haiti. Dr. Farmer stole medicine, smuggled it into Haiti and them illegally administered it to Haitian civilians. Dr. Farmer is devoted to his job and his patients. I think that the Haitian government should be thankful for people like Dr. Farmer. Overall I thought that this book was very informative.
Grock16 More than 1 year ago
Tracy Kidder outlines Dr. Paul Farmer’s saint-like characteristics and his achievements in aiding the impoverished. The book illustrates that Farmer had done what no one else thought of attempting. Farmer was born with every odd against him. He was raised on a bus, then a boat, and also born into a destitute family. Dr. Paul Farmer triumphed from his underprivileged childhood to achieve greatness with his gift—intelligence. Farmer continued his path to salvation, but along the way he learns of deprivation in parts of the world. Farmer refused to let his country’s ignorance stop him from his life’s commitment of reversing poverty and disease. Dr. Paul Farmer earned an academic scholarship to Harvard’s medical school and pursued his goal to end world poverty. Farmer went on his first of many journeys to Haiti and established medical centers later to be known as Partners in Health. Besides creating modern medical centers, he developed communities enriched with his benevolence and servitude. While Farmer resided in Haiti, he treated thousands of tuberculosis, AIDS, and other diseased patients. Dr. Paul Farmer refused to turn anyone away from help; thus, he created an aura of compassion. Because Farmer created Partners in Health, it stimulated the world’s healthcare and forced countries to realize other country’s problems and start working towards a solution. Farmer’s work did not stop there. He traveled to Russia, Peru, and third-world countries aiding their medical troubles. During Farmer’s time traveling and living in different countries, he did not rest until every person was treated. While in Haiti, Farmer lived in a shack with a bed, sleeping only four hours a day and having no hot water. His life is just purely inspiring. I chose this book because I am going into the medical field, and Farmer’s life is especially amazing to someone with future aspirations in the same field. Tracy Kidder has done a wonderful endeavor in proving that one man can change the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mountains beyond Mountains is an excellent account of one doctor's approach to humbly yet confidently solving the socio-medical issues of poor societies in various locations throughout the world. I found this book difficult to stop reading, as it is so interesting. I learned quite a bit about the factors which contribute to conditions of poor societies, geography, and tuberculosis. Although very educational, I would say the underlying theme of this book is the amazing accomplishment/improvements one person can make when one decides to achieve a goal.
JMcClure More than 1 year ago
You cannot read this book and come away with all of your old assumptions about poverty and public service intact. This is not the biography of a saint, however, but the story of one remarkable man and his amazing colleagues living out events that read more like a great novel. Dr. Paul Farmer is a driven doctor and anthropologist, who is universally admired and loved, but is also a flawed brother, son, lover, husband, father, and friend. He is able to define in simple terms the "moral clarity" for his own life of helping the poor, and he assails without pulling any punches, a world tainted by wealth and political corruption. His work to eradicate TB and AIDS among the poorest of the poor around the world illustrates the idea that you never know what you can do unless you just start doing it. If it is something that no one else had ever attempted, he would say, "Is there any data that proves it can't be done?" The takeaway is not that we should aspire to emulate Dr. Farmer's life and work, because his combination of genius and passion is truly unattainable for all but just a few individuals in any society, but that we can find our own passion and opportunities to serve the poor. Anthropologist Margaret Mead's famous words are mentioned in the book, and indeed are the theme: "Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have." The Pulitzer Prize winning author, Tracy Kidder, employs the unique point of view of an "insider," having spent years shadowing Farmer at work at Harvard, in Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia. Their friendship and Kidder's honest, but relentless questioning lends authenticity and incredible detail to the story. Pair that with his meticulous research on poverty, world politics, and medicine, and you feel not only smarter, but truly inspired by the end of the read. I loved this book for two reasons: for renewing my faith that there are courageous individuals like Farmer and his Partners in Health fighting for a healthier life for all of us, and for the belief that I, too, can find a place to make a difference. Oh, yes, and a third reason for all of us who love books: it is a terrific read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author did a thorough job of research. The subject is inspiring. Everyone needs to read this book. While we can't all be Paul Farmers we can do something for others.
Robin-Hood More than 1 year ago
Incredible story of a man with rare determination, even obsession, to solve serious medical problems. He does it through his own hard work rather than through research alone. A must read for anyone interested in mission work, medical care for the poor, or successfully connecting to the disenfranchised. Reads as if Tracy Kidder is sitting across the kitchen table from you talking about his friend Paul Farmer, the doctor who had an unconventional upbringing, and continues to carve out an unconventional and highly successful healthcare mission for the poor of Haiti. It is heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and funny, too.
AuntieAlice More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I didn't know about Dr. Farmer, but what an inspiration he is. Most of us do our work and think there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do. This man does it all and more! To cure TB, Aids/HIV in poor countries and finagle funding is truly a gift. I have read other books by Tracy Kidder and have been inspired by them all, including "The Soul of a New Machine" which at first glance would appear to be a pretty dull and boring subject, but Mr. Kidder brought the building of the computer to life, just as he does in this account of Dr. Farmer's life work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I feel like Tracy Kidder wrote a wonderful book. It expresses great ideas and directs good positive expressions. It is a story about a man who was raised in a bus and on a boat. He knew the only way for him to make it in life was to use his intelligence. So he worked hard and recieved a acadimic scholarship from Harvard's medical school. Then he went on curing the people of Haiti from their infectious diseases. This was a good book to read if you have never been to another country.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has changed my life. I used to want to be a doctor, but after reading this I feel I would have to be just like Dr. Farmer. Dr. Farmer goes beyond his line of duty to help cure the world of infectious diseases. He never really spends time with his family or friends besides the ones he has made in Haiti. I would freak out if I had to leave my family for weeks to travel around looking and trying to obtain the almost impossible. I am happy there are people in our world today that can do that kind of job. I learned several new things from reading this book. I can not wait to read another book by Tracy Kidder.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book I have learned so many things. It has really mad me realize that there are people around the world really suffering. I can not believe how hard it is for Dr. Farmer to get medicine to those who are dying. I also can not believe how dedicated Paul is to helping others. He goes about curing his patients in a different way them most doctors. He gets to know each and everyone of his patients as individuals and really shows he truly cares foe their well-being. By going those few extra steps Paul has made a difference in the way doctors should be viewed. I loved this book and I have already recommended it to a few people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
mountain beyond mountains is a great peace of writing that teaches our society a lot of great things. the book shows how one can make a diffrence in the world. Dr. paul farmer did what no one else probaly is capable of doing. Dr. paul farmer had a big and loving heart that cared for others. After all he had what he wanted, a great career, a good paying job and a house. he did not need to go to haiti, Peru or other countries to help the people that needed help. He was like god to the people of haiti because there was no hope and Dr. paul farmer brought hope to the people. we al can make differnece if we chose too. even a little donation can help across the world. if we the people do not help the people than the question is who will. what goes around somes around. Dr. paul farmer did not help the people because he was getting money , he helpmed them because he knew that they needed help. Dr. paul farmer setted a great example of that there is nothing that can be done. if the effort is there than great thing will happen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mountains Beyonds Mountains is a good book because it has a lot of good points and meanings. It shows people that one person can make a difference in a lot of lives by just wanting too. This book is about Dr. Farmer's life and he provided healthcare to many poor people who couldn't afford it. I would recommend this book to people wanting to become doctors or anyone dealing with anthropology. Also, if people want to read about lifestyles in third world countries this would be a good book. However, I was not very interested throughout the book because it was hard to get interested in. The writing style was slow and basically just told a life story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like this book mountains beyond mountains, it tells about the courage of a man trying to make a difference in places that seem to be a lost cause. A man that started an orginization that helped people that needed it the most. Dr. Farmer goes beyond the call of duty to make sure that his patients get what they need.He is an extrordinary person that goes further than other people would.Not only does he help his patients but humanity as well. I have never seen such determination to acheive a goal that seems impossible to reach. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is simply an amazing book. Tracy Kidder gives us a very detailed look into Dr. Paul Farmer's life and work. Kidder's descriptions of Farmer building a hospital and treating patients in Haiti for free is awe inspiring and will make you want to do something too. Just read this amazing novel, you won't regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. It goes to show that it only takes one person to make a difference. Dr. Paul Farmer made his life mission to take his knowledge and connections in the medical field and create a health care system that NEVER would have been in place other wise. After being to Africa myself, I know some of the difficulties and road blocks that he would have had to encounter along the way, but he never gave up, instead it gave him fuel to fight harder. I would encourage anyone to read this that has the desire to do something 'big' but is lacking the confidence to do so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr. Farmer's quest to cure the world, at personal cost and sacrifice, is simply awesome. His ability to lead others and influence world leaders, coupled with his compassionate care of individuals is amazing. This book is an eye-opener to world health problems. TB, AIDS, and other diseases are so prevalent in underprivileged countries. The problems are so enormouse, that despair could set in, but for the efforts and energy of a Dr. Farmer. His life, his work, his leadership encourages all of us who care about the world. One person can make a difference!
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Beyond mountains there are mountains¿ is apparently a Haitian proverb. Tracy Kidder¿s book covers his travels observing Doctor Paul Farmer, who grew up poor on a boat and bus, only to attend Harvard and also develop a public health clinic in Haiti. Farmer¿s career becomes a lens for Kidder to view the world¿s medical crises among the poor with a major emphasis on TB. Tracy Kidder brings the magnitude of the crises among the worlds poor into brilliant focus by highlighting Farmers life and dedication and, or obsession to cure the world's poor. Farmer works by treating patient by patient and yet his methods and expertise come to impact programs in Peru, the Siberian prisons of modern Russia, Cuba and his beloved Haiti. The book is able to give an excellent medical and political overview of the gap between the health and wealth of elite and the barren poor. Because Farmer is so intense with each individual patient it allows Kidder to illustrate the crises and the world¿s reaction dramatically, through many individual patient's. In reading I found I was amazed, angry, hopeful and depressed. It all reminded me of the ant pushing the large pebble up hill only to have it roll back down and over him. At the end of the book Farmer seems to sum up this overwhelming challenge by saying his is life spent in service to the ¿long defeat¿. Yet, along the way there are many small victories and some amazing people who join in the effort. People such as Tom White who owns a heavy construction firm in Boston who has given almost his whole fortune away to support Farmer¿s work. This book is mandatory reading for anyone in politics, public service, or feels they are entitled to have one more tax cut.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was moved and amazed by the life of Dr. Farmer in this book. His compassion, brilliance, commitment and humanity come shining through Tracy Kidder's lucid writing. This biography of a life still in progress is organized more thematically than strictly chronologically (thank heavens!), and in the course of learning of Farmer's dedication to the poorest of the poor and sickest of the sick in the third world (particularly Haiti), the reader also learns so much about the multi-resistant strains of TB, pharmaceutical funding, international philanthopy, and geopolitics. This book places the inaninity of modern American life in stark perspective, and in so doing, it is life-changing. At the same time I was reading this book, I was also reading The Purpose Driven Life with an adult church school class; Dr. Farmer's life is a compelling testimony of what a purpose-driven life really looks like!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brilliant. This book inspired my humanities thesis, and the ideas in this book will be the center of my research for my year long independent study next year.