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Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Favorite Reads: Mountains Beyond Mountains

My Favorite Reads

The meme is hosted by At Home With Books. Each week I am featuring one of my favorite reads from the past.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

Summary (from the publisher):
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.

Why I chose this book:
I recommended this book to my Aunt earlier this week as she was saying she wished she knew more about Haiti. I read it in December 2008, and here’s the review I wrote at that time:

Dr. Farmer is an impressive man who I think can actually single-handedly change the world. The book is well-written, on a fascinating topic. That said, I can't give it four stars because Dr. Farmer makes me feel like a lazy slob if I'm not giving away all my money and working towards the greater good 20 hours of every day with no thought to myself. Instead of inspiring me, it made me feel badly and like I should just give up because what I can I do in comparison. Additionally, I find him to be a bit of the martyr type, which is usually pretty annoying. The author seems to have occasionally had these feelings as well although he did well to mostly hide them, but the fact that they occasionally seep through, made me like Mr. Kidder much more. I know Dr. Farmer is very flawed, particularly when it comes to his family, but at the same time he just seems so saintly that I want to gag. But it's a truly fascinating story about a horrible medical tragedy that is continuing today, and would be a catastrophe if it weren't for Dr. Farmer. Although he's not someone I'd want to hang out with, I think the world needs more people like him.

Since I've originally written this review, I'd say anyone who liked Three Cups of Tea would love Mountains Beyond Mountains, which is better written, and has a more compelling protagonist.

1 comment:

Alyce said...

I have heard wonderful things about this book, and it's been on my TBR list for over a year. Thanks for the recommendation!