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Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World [Paperback]

Tracy Kidder
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 31 2004
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.”

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From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Kidder, a master documentarian, has primarily practiced his art on his home turf, Massachusetts, proving that one small place abounds in amazing stories. Now, in his most compelling chronicle to date, this Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner investigates a far harsher world in the company of Paul Farmer, a radical public health reformer devoted to providing medical care to the poor, mainly in Haiti. A Harvard-educated medical anthropologist, TB expert, and MacArthur "genius" gifted with an unshakable moral imperative, an ardent imagination, and limitless energy, compassion, and chutzpah, Farmer created Partners in Health, a renegade yet hugely influential organization. A powerful presence, this uncompromising visionary is too spectacularly impressive not to be disconcerting, and Kidder shares his puzzlement over and occasional discomfort with this charismatic and tirelessly giving man who eschews personal comfort to care for the "underdogs of the underdogs." As Kidder accompanies Farmer on his exhausting and risky daily routines and epic travels, he parses the cruel realities of deep poverty and the maddening politics of international health care. Most importantly, Kidder portrays a genuinely inspired and heroic individual, whose quest for justice will make every reader examine her or his life in a new light. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Six years after the fact, Dr. Paul Edward Farmer reminded me, "We met because of a beheading, of all things." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Mountains Beyond Mountains July 28 2013
By Jess B
Format:Paperback
This is an excellent book. One I've read and reread numerous times and shared with many friends.
Paul Farmer is a brilliant, witty man and a passionate crusader for health care for all.
Tracy Kidder's writing makes for an easy and informative read.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in public health, the social determinants of health or how to be a better global citizen.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The man who walks the walk. June 21 2004
By Gitano
Format:Hardcover
You may think he is crazy, or a commie, or a dreamer but you have to admire Paul Farmer. I think most likely he is a truly good genius. Alot of WLs (white liberals) talk the talk but his guy walks the walk, about a million miles of it. He is sort of a Mother Theresa + doctor + scientist. Sure he may come off as abrupt or self righteous from time to time but I believe this guy really does care for the downtrodden of the world. If you were inspired by this book as I was consider making a donation to his organization, Partners in Health, which is what I did as soon as I read the last page.
The book itself is somewhat superficial in it's analysis of Farmer. I am concerned about his family, for instance, and his daughter having a long distance dad. I'm not sure how he reconciles this. I guess Gandhi had the same issue. I think Kidder did an OK job though and I would not fault him for his introspection as other reviewers have.
All in all a solid uplifting book that makes you feel good about mankind.
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By Lori
Format:Hardcover
This is Tracy Kidder's chronicle of Paul Farmer's ongoing quest to wake our consciousness to the plagues coming out of third world poverty and to shake us into recognizing the suffering of our fellow humans around the globe. Paul Farmer is a super-hero on the front lines of infectious disease, attacking drug-resistant TB in Haiti, Peru and the prisons of Russia. His global fight for funding for AIDS and TB treatment has gained his organization Partners in Health huge grants from the MacArthur, Gates and Soros foundations. Farmer backs down from no obstacles in his quest to bring health care, one patient at a time, to the poorest and most down-trodden patients on earth.
A natural leader, his influence has drawn nations together in
their fight against poverty, hunger and disease. This is the most important story Tracy Kidder has told. Farmer's constant questioning of why some individuals need so much wealth, when most of the world goes hungry, is not an easy thing to take.
Should be required reading for high school seniors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Eternal Inspiration May 23 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Being in the international public health field this books feels very close to home. It explores a sentiment that many fail to understand - the dedication, support, hope and perserverence for the good of humanity. It would inspire anyone to pack there bags and follow the footsteps of Doctor Paul Farmer. It does strongly focus on the curative feature of health systems. However, it paints a realistic picture of the bureaucracy and diplomacy in getting things done. It does invoke the feeling of being overconsumers! There were moments of tears, moments of visions, moment of hope but overall...it is a motivator and an absolute must for anyone working in the development field.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, emotional, flawed, but recommended May 13 2004
Format:Hardcover
The work of Paul Farmer and the conditions in the world that motivate him are presented in a compelling eye-opening narrative that makes a good read.
However, the reader is not sure if this is a Tracy Kidder journal about a Tracy Kidder life experience or a biography about Paul Farmer. In the two other Kidder books I read and loved (Soul of a New Machine and House), there was no Kidder, just wonderfully interwoven narrative and factual background. In Mountains, Kidder keeps intruding in the first person, and I find it distracting. And, if one is to assume that there was an editorial decision to include Kidder at the expense of something else, WHERE is Farmer's wife Didi and daughter Catherine? We hear about a one-night stopover from Haiti to Russia and a vague reference to summers together in Haiti. If that's all there is, then surely Farmer and Didi must have some feelings about this. I would have much rather seen some of the book devoted to this than Tracy Kidder's fitness level when hiking the central highlands. And without more on that personal side of Farmer, we are left with too much of Kidder's observations and conclusions, and not enough with which to get our own full, emotionally complete portrait. I kept looking in the back for a couple of more chapters.
That criticism aside, Kidder is an author who always deserves attention, and has focused his attention on a truly remarkable man and story. I do recommend this book, and just allow myself the fantasy of being the editor and demanding a bit more Farmer and family and a bit less Kidder.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Man With A Plan May 6 2004
Format:Hardcover
The book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder has left me with a new found appreciation for people such as Dr. Paul Farmer who put their own lives behind the lives of others. Although lengthy at times the message was still very powerful. I found this book to be a true inspiration. The writer exposed the harsh reality of the conditions in Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia. His graphic descriptions allowed the reader to feel like they had walked in Dr. Farmer's shoes for a short while and were honored to have done so. This book was both insightful and moving.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 stars
As a public health professional who has followed the work of Partners In Health and read much of Paul Farmer's work, I assumed that Mountains Beyond Mountains would be an... Read more
Published on May 8 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Mountains Beyond Mountains: Inadvertently Serves a Certain A
"Mountains Beyond Mountains" is absorbing and Paul Farmer to be truly amazing. However, there is something quite troubling about this book. Read more
Published on April 30 2004 by Hugh Pearson
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a FIVE-STAR book.
Let's face it, grade-inflation plagues amazon.com. I mean, really, how many five-star books are there? Well, "Mountains Beyond Mountains" is one. Read more
Published on April 23 2004 by "bscoles"
5.0 out of 5 stars We're all called to be healers
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. The per capita income there is around $1 (US) a day. Read more
Published on March 25 2004 by Kerry Walters
5.0 out of 5 stars The long defeat
Read this book and be ready to have your assumptions jarred and to think again about what is possible for one man to accomplish. Read more
Published on March 25 2004 by Patricia Kramer
5.0 out of 5 stars READ THIS AND DO SOMETHING
You would have to be heartless or stupid not to be moved by this book. In a day and age when our world (def:commerce, media and populations of developed countries) care more about... Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A first-rate hagiography that's deeper than it first seems
Tracy Kidder brings his outstanding powers of insight and narration to the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who runs a unique medical clinic in Haiti that at its best bring first-world... Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2004 by bensmomma
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