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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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Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World + To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation + Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction
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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
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Man With A Plan May 5 2004
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Lori
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The long defeat March 25 2004
Read this book and be ready to have your assumptions jarred and to think again about what is possible for one man to accomplish.
Our society is based on always going for the win. Dr. Farmer works outside that parameter. He doesn't expect to win. "We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it's not worth it. So you fight the long defeat." "I don't care if we lose, I'm gonna try to do the right thing...And then all the victories are gravy, you know?"
"The best thing about Paul Farmer is those hikes." Dr. Paul Farmer walks four hours to do a home visit for one child. He had already cured the child, but the child is part of a system, a family and home. The system also has to be treated for the child to stay well. "You have to believe that small gestures matter, that they do add up."
That to me was the most amazing thing about this book. Farmer travels the world raising money, speading the word of the need for treatment of drug resistant TB, setting up programs in other countries, yet he always comes back to the most important thing of treating one person at a time and improving their individual surroundings.
Farmer doesn't play by the rules, doesn't wait for approval or outside help, he works non-stop and is grateful when help arrives. As other reviewers have suggested, contributions sent to Paul Farmer will be used for the nitty gritty, no high paid executives here.
As an aside, this book is interesting reading currently due to the recent events in Haiti.
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5.0 out of 5 stars We're all called to be healers March 25 2004
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. The per capita income there is around $1 (US) a day. It has the worst health statistics of any nation in the Western hemisphere. Political and social unrest are ripping the country apart. AIDS, tuberculosis, and hunger-related diseases are epidemic. And for some reason--could it be because there's nothing to be gained or feared from Haiti--the world's powers don't seem to care.
Kidder's book tells the story of one man who does care: Dr. Paul Farmer, the founder and energizing spirit of Zanmi Lasante Hospital. Farmer tends to the people of Haiti, and unashamedly begs from those of us who live in wealthy, developed countries to do so. It's astounding what he does with minimal medical supplies. He brings life back to those who have almost lost it. He creates hope.
The standing joke at Zanmi Lasante Hospital is that each patient is required to pay 80 cents for treatment--but children, women, the destitute, anyone who's seriously ill, and anyone who can't afford it, are all exempted.
Think about that. Physical and emotional healing is given out with nothing expected in return. Care is given not because there's something in it for the giver, but because that's simply what ought to be done. It's the decent thing to do. If more of us had come to the same place that Paul Farmer is at, the world's healing would be a reality rather than a distant dream.
Please read this book, roll up your sleeves, and join the effort. Become a healer.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Be Careful: Makes You Think Jan. 15 2004
I like Tracy Kidder, but think his writing here is weaker than it has been in other books. However, I couldn't put it down. Not just because Dr. Farmer is a compelling person. Somehow, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Dr. Farmer, the problems he's dealing with, Kidder's reaction: together, this book somehow manages to be both enjoyable and unsettling. the lyric in Jesus Christ Superstar said "there will be poor always." It's a great read -- fast, interesting, lots of human interest -- but the bottom line is that this book forces the reader to try to reason through what's the right approach to inequity, what's our duty to the poor, how can national borders matter in the face of suffering. Very inspiring to learn about Dr. Farmer's successes; can't stop thinking about what my OWN sense of the issues are. One thing's for sure: while I may not agree 100% with Farmer's approach as a model for everyone to follow, there's no question he's made complacency less of an option I can live with. I highly recommend this book for anyone who cares about issues of human suffering, poverty, health, philanthropy, international relations, race relations, leadership.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Mountains Beyond Mountains
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... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jess B
4.0 out of 5 stars The man who walks the walk.
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. Read more
Published on June 21 2004 by Gitano
5.0 out of 5 stars Eternal Inspiration
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... Read more
Published on May 22 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, emotional, flawed, but recommended
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. Read more
Published on May 13 2004 by Caldwell
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 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 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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