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Tracy Kidder's critically acclaimed adult nonfiction work, Mountains Beyond Mountains has been adapted for young people by Michael French. In this young adult edition, readers are introduced to Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-educated doctor with a self-proclaimed mission to transform healthcare on a global scale. Farmer focuses his attention on some of the world's most impoverished people and uses unconventional ways in which to provide healthcare, to achieve real results and save lives.




From the Hardcover edition.
Published: Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780307980885
List price: $8.99
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Tracy Kidder is a genius. MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS is a journalistic portrait of Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health and an extraordinary advocate for the Haitian poor. I admire how Kidder includes just enough of his own sense of intrigue--what makes this guy tick?--and discomfort--how come Farmer makes him feel inadequate?--to hook the reader in what feels like a personal story but in fact is largely biography. This book is a good example of literary journalism.

Farmer is strongly influenced by liberation theology, but he's brought these principles to bear on the field of medicine, especially the treatment of TB. I found many aspects of his work personally challenging. He remains a doctor dedicated to seeing individual patients, even if this entails 10-hour treks through the central plateau of Haiti, as he grows in prominence and eventually comes to influence national health care systems around the globe. Kidder implies that this groundedness in doctoring individuals is the key to his success. The more he advocates for quality care for individuals, the more Farmer gets into political trouble. Once again, radical love even on a small scale rattles those in power. His story has challenged me to keep my feet firmly planted in the dirty particulars of working with ordinary people while at the same time bringing the insights of this work out to influence a larger sphere. We have a mandate to correct economic and social injustices, Farmer says. How can I take up this mantel as a writer? I've a lot to think about.more
No plot. This was a bookclub pick - didn't have high hopes.more
An interesting glimpse into the life of a very selfless being. I am amazed by this Farmer guy. We need to clone him many times over. The book is a great read, until the end. The book attempts to close with a real life anecdote, but it doesn't fit in the chronology of the story. If I was Kidder, I'd have a hard time closing this story too.more
In this moving biography of Paul Farmer, Tracy Kidder takes us on a world tour of medical missionary work. Farmer started his mission to save the world from tuberculosis one patient at a time in the slums of Haiti. Practically from scratch, he developed a clinic that would treat the poor. But Farmer not only treated his patients, he listened to them, he cared about each one with individual interest, and he provided food and supplies so that his patients wouldn't be saved from tuberculosis only to die of starvation.As his mission in Haiti gained more and more momentum, Farmer's expertise on tuberculosis (especially antibiotic-resistant strains) became world-renowned. He was asked to help set up clinics in Peru. He worked with the health systems of prisons in Russia, where antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis was rampant. And he loved each and every patient, regardless of who they were. While describing the incredible non-stop work of Farmer, Kidder managed to make the doctor more human. I could imagine Farmer, cheerful despite sleep-deprivation shadows under his eyes, flying from one country to another in a worn-down suit that he would never have time to replace. From the book, it seemed that Farmer might pause for hours to have a heart-felt conversation with a patient, even while a room-full of self-important Harvard doctors awaited his arrival. I could empathize with Olivia, Farmer's old flame, who once felt a twinge of satisfaction to realize that Farmer was only human - she could annoy him. Being around someone like that must be exhausting. Kidder painted a brilliant man with limitless energy, unimpeachable morals, and the charisma to make his dreams a reality. I felt overwhelmed just listening to the book. I can't imagine what it must be like to work for him (or date/marry him). And yet, it's impossible for me to not admire him. I found this book fascinating not only because it was a description of an amazing man with a daring love for humanity, but also because I enjoyed learning more about the social/economic conditions of Haiti. The narrative flowed smoothly between Kidder's personal impressions of Farmer and Haiti to well-researched narratives of Farmer's life outside his work. I enjoyed Paul Micheal's narration of the book - though I have little to comment on his style of reading. It was one of those audiobooks that I was so absorbed in the story that I forget to be distracted by the narrator - which means Micheal must have done a good job.more
You’re not supposed to love this book. To do so would be to fall to the seduction of blind idolatry, and Farmer, the book’s subject, even points out that this is not his goal: the goal isn’t to convince more people to BE like Farmer, but rather to think like him, to believe in what he believes. As a fiction reader/writer who only sporadically dabbles in nonfiction, I find it hard to consolidate the opinions of the two types of readers in me: the one who reads to learn the craft of writing, and the one who wants to be moved by new, eye-opening reading experiences.Research aside, Kidder’s writing style and his way of creating “characters” is simplistic. He basically throws a million details, PIH-er vocabulary, Farmer quotes, and anecdotes at you and essentially commands you to be convincingly immersed in their world. And, if you don’t actually feel immersed, because the words and details on the page are basically deliberately arrhythmic, Kidder and Farmer will give you the steady “are-you-stupid” stare—you don’t get it, do you, because you’re not smart enough to get it, you will never be able to truly understand and get the inner workings of Farmer’s mind and soul.Actually, Kidder addresses this in his book. I think it’s partly the reason for why he actually writes himself as a character into his book: because Paul Farmer is so easy to deify, with his nerdily bemused made-up vocabulary and quips, his grand visions, his inexplicable endless resource of energy, that we mere mortal readers need someone in the book with whom we can connect and empathize. Kidder is not especially likable in the book: he essentially takes on the role of Devil’s advocate and asks Farmer all the questions that we readers are thinking but would never dare admit that we’re thinking: Can you really do what you envision? How can you exist without a solid flow of monetary support? Is it really worthwhile for you to use your time and money to help someone with just a 5% chance of living past age thirty? Kidder places himself as the dumb normal man because that’s how we’re all feeling in the shadow of Farmer. And this leads to one of the ongoing emotional contradictions we have regarding this book: Farmer makes us feel guilty for not ourselves being a part of his cause, and then we feel angry that Farmer is making ourselves feel guilty by example, etc.The debate over the best way to portray Farmer and his work aside (is a print book, with all its limitations and the conscious/subconscious selectivity of language, the best medium through which to convey Farmer’s beliefs and dreams?), the book’s message is one that grows on you, to ultimately become something you go back to, again and again. It doesn’t smack you over the head with itself: for most of the book, I was still struggling between what it is that Farmer and Kidder were trying to make me feel, and to believe in the feasibility of Farmer’s vision, not only as a reader believes in a book’s world but as a frustrated individual believes in the vision’s place in our real world. There are many different things that many different readers can take away from MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS. You could feel ridicule masking insecurity over Farmer’s and PIH’s actions. You could take the book as an inspirational call to arms—and then be stranded because you don’t know how to make the best use of your arms. You can say, that’s nice, this is a nice biography about a nice, good man, and then move on to the next book in your TBR pile. (The book—Farmer and Kidder—also preempts any seemingly original emotional and intellectual responses to itself because it works all these different possible responses into its narrative. The self-awareness of this book is super annoying at times!)What I took away from this book, however, is this: the world is a sucky place, and most of the suckiness is the result of our—humans’—interferences with the natural state of things, by imposing structures and systems on everything and creating disparities. As Farmer says, suffering is a human creation, and then we devise ways to ease that suffering, but only for the people who contributed to the creation of that suffering in the first place. And it’s really easy for us individuals to feel frustrated and helpless in the face of such systems that claim, but fail, to benefit humanity (see: the big mess that is the United States congressional system). But rather than wrap ourselves in that helplessness and frustration, we should believe, first and foremost, in the power of the individual to help others, and then in the power of a collective of like-minded individuals to enact even greater changes, essentially beating the system and establishing their own system that is based upon actual observation and experience at the individual level. This is why Farmer continues to trek seven hours into the central plateau of Haiti in order to call on just one patient: without that focus on the individual, PIH’s system will become like every other system in history and the world that has failed in its missives, tangled up in bureaucracy and financial economy and the like. Focusing on the individual is doable, and essential, and I can do it, and you can do it, and everyone can do it, and this dream that the world can be an inexplicably better place, however opaque the path there is.more
“Beyond mountains there are mountains.--Haitian proverbThis epigraph is a metaphor for life but it also perfectly describes the awe-inspiring life of Dr. Paul Farmer. A Harvard trained MD, who has dedicated his life, to helping the poor, no matter how difficult the path is or how high these treacherous peaks can be.He spends his early career in Haiti, one of the poorest countries on the planet, riddled with corruption and deep poverty. Through hard work and complete dedication he builds clinics, contains epidemics and tends to the down-trodden, giving them the attention, medical and moral, that they have always been denied.The author spent several years, off and on with Farmer and witnessed first-hand, how this incredible man, creates a safety net for the under-privileged, not only in Haiti, but also in Peru, Cuba, Russia and other locations.This is riveting narrative non-fiction and it will inform, inspire and prove that these devastating issues can be dealt with in an effective and humane way. Highly recommended.more
Amazing book, has stayed with me intently. As a nurse, and as one who has visited Haiti, the home of my husband's family it particularly moved me. I really enjoyed the level of detail in program development and the insight into Paul Farmer's motivation and inspiration. I would recommend it to many people for a variety of reasons. Inspirational, truly profound.more
Great book about Doctor Paul Farmer and his work in Haiti and on behalf of poor populations all over the world. What a man.more
A fun, twisty, musical bit of metafiction. The narrator is Leslie Shepherd, a gentlemanly critic and folk-music collector in search of the Next Great British Composer, the last one having lived a couple hundred years earlier (more if you’re not going to count imports like Handel). Shepherd is no Serenus Zeitblom, who narrated the story of demonic atonal composer Adrian Leverkuhn and didn’t intrude too much on the story himself (though, like Shepherd, he prided himself on being the only one who ‘really understood’ the composer). Shepherd actively, well, shepherds the career of budding composer Charles Jessold. The narrative is told as a flashback – we learn at the beginning that Jessold has killed his wife and her lover on the eve of the premiere of his first opera. Shepherd purports to be Jessold’s biographer and describes their first meeting, excursions to collect English country songs, which generate the germ for the opera, Jessold’s early successes, travels to Germany followed by his imprisonment during the war and subsequent decline into alcoholism and assholism. However, Shepherd makes various revisions to his story, leaving readers to decide whether to trust this unreliable narrator. In whatever version you look at though, Shepherd’s behavior is slightly or very creepy. His mentor role, and other roles, are very controlling even though is seems that he is matched by the selfish Jessold. The book is quite entertaining. There’s a good dose of humor and the quality of the writing is very high. Shepherd certainly has a lot of faults and might be a bit of a stereotypical British stuffed-shirt who naturally opposes Schoenberg and his ilk, but you feel bad for him for taking all the nasty treatment that Jessold metes out. The Jessold-Shepherd relationship is well-developed, but there was whole mess of male characters surrounding Jessold who sort of blended in together (though one, avant-garde critic Standing inspires this gem – “I was beginning to dislike him in the same way that the bibliophile, unsuccessfully combing musty bookshops for the works of an obscure writer, takes against the innocent author whose name the alphabet happens to place next and whose books are in plentiful supply. Standing was that latter author: always available, always at hand, not at all what I wanted.”) Shepherd’s wife Miriam also seems a bit hazy as a character. Some of the plot points are predictable, but others not so much. Stace is at home with the musical elements – a lot of composer names and works are casually dropped into the story (always relevant though – and everything can be quickly wiki-ed), and Stace gives a quick cameo to Leverkuhn. The only infodumping comes with the story of Gesualdo, but that makes sense in the development of the plot. A very good read.more
A powerful profile of an amazing man, Dr. Paul Farmer. He's one of those people that just doesn't seem real--he has the energy, passion, and genius of a hundred men. His story and philosophy is inspiring and makes you reconsider your own outlook on the world and think about how much you are doing to help those in need. And while this book describes deplorable conditions in Haiti and Peru and elsewhere, the tone is never depressing, because of Farmer's eternally optimistic approach.more
Published in 2003, this continues to be a powerful and inspiring biography of Dr. Paul Farmer (and Ophelia Dahl along with a team of physicians) who changed global health by their dedicated hard work in Haiti. Founders of Partners in Health, major inroads were made in the treatment of tuberculosis/HIV. Illustrates how passion and dedication does make a difference.more
Awe inspiring! Wow. It is engaging, educational and, above all, a great read! Mountains Beyond Mountains. It tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health, which is an organization that fights disease and poverty among the globe's poorest and sickest in countries such as Haiti, Rwanda and Peru. His personal quest to treat patients one by one, improve their lives and fight for global health equality is impressive.more
Doctor who goes Haiti - loved the beginning but bogged down in details in last half, definitely worth reading - Conniemore
Mountains Beyond Mountains is the real life account of Dr. Paul Farmer, who battles to bring quality medical care to impoverished people in Haiti, Peru and Russia. Well written and moving, I enjoyed reading this more than Three Cups of Tea.more
Dr. Paul Farmer is a man with a mission. Working tirelessly to alleviate suffering in Haiti, he is the male equivalent of Mother Teresa. When he answered the call to visit Haiti after graduation from Duke University, he fell in love with the country and its impoverished people. I'm in awe of this compassionate and brilliant man who had the dedication and energy to lead the double life of a medical student at Harvard while realizing his dream of building a medical clinic for the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Raising funds, studying, traveling back and forth while earning doctorates in medicine and anthropology -- this is an incredibly inspired and inspiring man.With the heart of an anthropologist, Farmer absorbed the complexity of Haiti's history, geography, religion, political exploitation, and shaky economic system. He loved nothing better than showing visitors the beauty of the land and people which he called "translating Haiti." Author Tracy Kidder likewise does an admirable job translating Paul Farmer as a driven man who transformed his self-proclaimed white-trash background into an internationally renowned infectious disease expert working through his Partners in Health organization to eradicate drug resistant TB. He travels extensively, but his heart remains as a healer in Haiti caring for "the least of these."Tracy Kidder has been a behind-the-scenes writer of varied subjects including computers, the classroom, and living in a nursing home, but he really gets into this Haiti story. By this I mean he literally becomes a character in the book as he interacts with Dr. Farmer and his colleagues. This added an interesting dimension to the book, making it more personal. I felt the pain and thirst of their all-day treks up the steep mountains to check on the well-being of patients as well as the tension of visiting a prison in Siberia in order to influence the method of treating a TB epidemic. These are just two examples in the multi-faceted life of a modern-day champion of the down-and-out so convincingly rendered by an author who clearly shares Dr. Farmer's passion.more
Inspiring people and story.more
Mountains Beyond Mountains can be seen as a biography about Dr. Paul Farmer within the context of his love for Haiti. Mountains Beyond Mountains can also be seen as a travel book, a great way to learn about Haiti's culture and climate, it's people and politics. Haiti is a conflicted country so there is a lot to tell. Kidder is sensitive to Farmer's intense passion for medicine and does not diminish the magnitude of sacrifices Farmer has made for it. Relationships and health suffer when Farmer single-minded tenacity neglects everything else.more
Tracy Kidder has written a very readable biography of Dr. Paul Farmer: a rarely selfless and accomplished person, an anthropologist, infectious disease specialist, Harvard Professor and reformer of public health policy. Farmer loves practicing medicine, and most importantly, he loves patients. A true genius (he did win a MacArthur Fellowship) he is able to look at a problem, like Multiple Drug Resistant Tuberculosis, and see not just the disease, but all the conditions that allow it to exist: poverty, overcrowding, malnutrition, war, political corruption, ecological disaster, blind adherence to routine -- and devise a treatment routine effective on a global level. He takes on patients who most would find it reasonable to ignore. He believes the poor have a right to real, clean, modern medical treatment, and, through the foundation he helped found - Partners In Health - has found ways to provide it. One of my favorite quotes from the book: "How does one person with great talents come to exert a force on the world? I think in Farmer's case the answer lies somewhere in the apparent craziness, the sheer impracticality of half of everything he does..." another "If you do the right thing you avoid futility." He's impractical in the way he sees every person as important, every patient as worth treating, then he goes out into the world and finds a way to get the money and helpers to do it. His religion is liberation theology, his philosophy is the preferential option for the poor which means that the poor deserve to be helped, even if such help is a burden on the rich, but he's so intelligent and so charismatic that he's able to convince the rich to bear at least a part of that burden. He set up a small clinic in Haiti, Zanmi Lasante that's become a 104 bed hospital with satellites, schools, and resident training. Then he went on to set up clinics and treatment methods in Peru and the prisons of Russia. I think Kidder was as charmed as the reader by Dr. Farmer, and that's why he was able to spend enough time with him to write such a moving book.more
My brother has been trying to get me to read this for a year, and after the Haiti earthquake I finally checked it out. He was right that it is a page turner. It is a biography of Paul Farmer, a genius who has created an oasis in a poverty stricken area of Haiti to treat patients as well as gone on to fight TB around the world by challenging the accepted ways of dealing with disease and poverty. I struggled with the book. Even Farmer admits in the beginning that what he is doing is pallative. Treating one patient at a time of diseases that mainly afflict people in poverty. Yet he does create communities and schools in the hopes that it will give them more opportunity than sex trade, but in a place like Haiti the goal for most is to find a way out if educated. It feels dismal and I realized when I got to one of the final chapter where he explains that his fight is is a fight of defeat. He will not succeed in treating every patient, but will fight to do it and if that includes a lot of money to change people's circumstances so there is less chance for infectious diseases then he will do it.more
One of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time. Anyone who aspires to be a doctor or wants to re-think their approach to life should read this.more
Excellent story that seems to capture the real Paul Farmer -- well written, engaging, nothing sentimental or maudlin, gives the background that explains much of current work that Partners in Health does in the world today. Paul Farmer is seeable and hearable on YouTube videos which adds a very sweet dimension to the book.more
What a marvelous book! It is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who grew up poor, living for years in a bus with five siblings or on a boat. He grew up with a fierce desire to help people. He got into Harvard medical school, and while there got interested in Haiti and all its severe problems. He went to one of the poorer regions in a poor country, and he has proven over and over that hard work, organization, imagination, good medical practices, personal attention, and some money can make a big difference. Necessarily he and his coworkers became experts in tuberculosis, since it is one of Haiti's major medical problems. They had a lot of success treating drug resistant TB, using a different and more effective regimen than recommended by the World Health Organization. Farmer and his colleagues in Partner in Health became busier than ever, working on TB in Peru and in Russian prisons.Kidder is a terrific writer. He gives a great sense of what an amazing but wholly human character Farmer is, as well as some of his coworkers. The book proves that one person CAN make a difference, but few are as capable as Farmer. Those of us without his talents can but support him however we are able.Well, now I can add another hero to my list. Last year it was Greg Mortenson, profiled in Three Cups of Tea. This year its Paul Farmer - and it is only January!more
Inspiring story of how one man can really make a difference in this world. Dr Farmer has described his work battling TB in Haiti (and later Peru and Russia) as "the long defeat", but after reading 'Mountains' I would characterize his accomplishments as just the opposite. This is an inspiring, heartwrenching, interesting and complicated story and Kidder tells it very well. You don't have to be a medical professional to appreciate this book--a definite recommend.more
Meet Dr. Paul Farmer: Harvard medical professor, medical anthropologist, infectious disease specialist, doctor and one strong advocate for the poor. MBM documents Farmer's life and accomplishments, but above all portrays him as a doctor with a world-wide base of patients who cannont afford the most basic neccessities of life. Farmer established an organization called Partners in Health, that's entire goal is to create (his terms) a Preferential Option for the Poor (O for the P). basically it means putting the needs of the poor above all others since they do not have any way to meet them themselves. PIH has branches in Haiti, Peru, Siberia, and Boston and it's entire purpose is to treat the truly destitute and sick -- free of charge. His story is awe inspiring and the author was able illustrate his character without ever really deifying him. He even documents their arguments! Very interesting story about someone who has dedicated their life to improving the lives of others.more
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Reviews

Tracy Kidder is a genius. MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS is a journalistic portrait of Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health and an extraordinary advocate for the Haitian poor. I admire how Kidder includes just enough of his own sense of intrigue--what makes this guy tick?--and discomfort--how come Farmer makes him feel inadequate?--to hook the reader in what feels like a personal story but in fact is largely biography. This book is a good example of literary journalism.

Farmer is strongly influenced by liberation theology, but he's brought these principles to bear on the field of medicine, especially the treatment of TB. I found many aspects of his work personally challenging. He remains a doctor dedicated to seeing individual patients, even if this entails 10-hour treks through the central plateau of Haiti, as he grows in prominence and eventually comes to influence national health care systems around the globe. Kidder implies that this groundedness in doctoring individuals is the key to his success. The more he advocates for quality care for individuals, the more Farmer gets into political trouble. Once again, radical love even on a small scale rattles those in power. His story has challenged me to keep my feet firmly planted in the dirty particulars of working with ordinary people while at the same time bringing the insights of this work out to influence a larger sphere. We have a mandate to correct economic and social injustices, Farmer says. How can I take up this mantel as a writer? I've a lot to think about.more
No plot. This was a bookclub pick - didn't have high hopes.more
An interesting glimpse into the life of a very selfless being. I am amazed by this Farmer guy. We need to clone him many times over. The book is a great read, until the end. The book attempts to close with a real life anecdote, but it doesn't fit in the chronology of the story. If I was Kidder, I'd have a hard time closing this story too.more
In this moving biography of Paul Farmer, Tracy Kidder takes us on a world tour of medical missionary work. Farmer started his mission to save the world from tuberculosis one patient at a time in the slums of Haiti. Practically from scratch, he developed a clinic that would treat the poor. But Farmer not only treated his patients, he listened to them, he cared about each one with individual interest, and he provided food and supplies so that his patients wouldn't be saved from tuberculosis only to die of starvation.As his mission in Haiti gained more and more momentum, Farmer's expertise on tuberculosis (especially antibiotic-resistant strains) became world-renowned. He was asked to help set up clinics in Peru. He worked with the health systems of prisons in Russia, where antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis was rampant. And he loved each and every patient, regardless of who they were. While describing the incredible non-stop work of Farmer, Kidder managed to make the doctor more human. I could imagine Farmer, cheerful despite sleep-deprivation shadows under his eyes, flying from one country to another in a worn-down suit that he would never have time to replace. From the book, it seemed that Farmer might pause for hours to have a heart-felt conversation with a patient, even while a room-full of self-important Harvard doctors awaited his arrival. I could empathize with Olivia, Farmer's old flame, who once felt a twinge of satisfaction to realize that Farmer was only human - she could annoy him. Being around someone like that must be exhausting. Kidder painted a brilliant man with limitless energy, unimpeachable morals, and the charisma to make his dreams a reality. I felt overwhelmed just listening to the book. I can't imagine what it must be like to work for him (or date/marry him). And yet, it's impossible for me to not admire him. I found this book fascinating not only because it was a description of an amazing man with a daring love for humanity, but also because I enjoyed learning more about the social/economic conditions of Haiti. The narrative flowed smoothly between Kidder's personal impressions of Farmer and Haiti to well-researched narratives of Farmer's life outside his work. I enjoyed Paul Micheal's narration of the book - though I have little to comment on his style of reading. It was one of those audiobooks that I was so absorbed in the story that I forget to be distracted by the narrator - which means Micheal must have done a good job.more
You’re not supposed to love this book. To do so would be to fall to the seduction of blind idolatry, and Farmer, the book’s subject, even points out that this is not his goal: the goal isn’t to convince more people to BE like Farmer, but rather to think like him, to believe in what he believes. As a fiction reader/writer who only sporadically dabbles in nonfiction, I find it hard to consolidate the opinions of the two types of readers in me: the one who reads to learn the craft of writing, and the one who wants to be moved by new, eye-opening reading experiences.Research aside, Kidder’s writing style and his way of creating “characters” is simplistic. He basically throws a million details, PIH-er vocabulary, Farmer quotes, and anecdotes at you and essentially commands you to be convincingly immersed in their world. And, if you don’t actually feel immersed, because the words and details on the page are basically deliberately arrhythmic, Kidder and Farmer will give you the steady “are-you-stupid” stare—you don’t get it, do you, because you’re not smart enough to get it, you will never be able to truly understand and get the inner workings of Farmer’s mind and soul.Actually, Kidder addresses this in his book. I think it’s partly the reason for why he actually writes himself as a character into his book: because Paul Farmer is so easy to deify, with his nerdily bemused made-up vocabulary and quips, his grand visions, his inexplicable endless resource of energy, that we mere mortal readers need someone in the book with whom we can connect and empathize. Kidder is not especially likable in the book: he essentially takes on the role of Devil’s advocate and asks Farmer all the questions that we readers are thinking but would never dare admit that we’re thinking: Can you really do what you envision? How can you exist without a solid flow of monetary support? Is it really worthwhile for you to use your time and money to help someone with just a 5% chance of living past age thirty? Kidder places himself as the dumb normal man because that’s how we’re all feeling in the shadow of Farmer. And this leads to one of the ongoing emotional contradictions we have regarding this book: Farmer makes us feel guilty for not ourselves being a part of his cause, and then we feel angry that Farmer is making ourselves feel guilty by example, etc.The debate over the best way to portray Farmer and his work aside (is a print book, with all its limitations and the conscious/subconscious selectivity of language, the best medium through which to convey Farmer’s beliefs and dreams?), the book’s message is one that grows on you, to ultimately become something you go back to, again and again. It doesn’t smack you over the head with itself: for most of the book, I was still struggling between what it is that Farmer and Kidder were trying to make me feel, and to believe in the feasibility of Farmer’s vision, not only as a reader believes in a book’s world but as a frustrated individual believes in the vision’s place in our real world. There are many different things that many different readers can take away from MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS. You could feel ridicule masking insecurity over Farmer’s and PIH’s actions. You could take the book as an inspirational call to arms—and then be stranded because you don’t know how to make the best use of your arms. You can say, that’s nice, this is a nice biography about a nice, good man, and then move on to the next book in your TBR pile. (The book—Farmer and Kidder—also preempts any seemingly original emotional and intellectual responses to itself because it works all these different possible responses into its narrative. The self-awareness of this book is super annoying at times!)What I took away from this book, however, is this: the world is a sucky place, and most of the suckiness is the result of our—humans’—interferences with the natural state of things, by imposing structures and systems on everything and creating disparities. As Farmer says, suffering is a human creation, and then we devise ways to ease that suffering, but only for the people who contributed to the creation of that suffering in the first place. And it’s really easy for us individuals to feel frustrated and helpless in the face of such systems that claim, but fail, to benefit humanity (see: the big mess that is the United States congressional system). But rather than wrap ourselves in that helplessness and frustration, we should believe, first and foremost, in the power of the individual to help others, and then in the power of a collective of like-minded individuals to enact even greater changes, essentially beating the system and establishing their own system that is based upon actual observation and experience at the individual level. This is why Farmer continues to trek seven hours into the central plateau of Haiti in order to call on just one patient: without that focus on the individual, PIH’s system will become like every other system in history and the world that has failed in its missives, tangled up in bureaucracy and financial economy and the like. Focusing on the individual is doable, and essential, and I can do it, and you can do it, and everyone can do it, and this dream that the world can be an inexplicably better place, however opaque the path there is.more
“Beyond mountains there are mountains.--Haitian proverbThis epigraph is a metaphor for life but it also perfectly describes the awe-inspiring life of Dr. Paul Farmer. A Harvard trained MD, who has dedicated his life, to helping the poor, no matter how difficult the path is or how high these treacherous peaks can be.He spends his early career in Haiti, one of the poorest countries on the planet, riddled with corruption and deep poverty. Through hard work and complete dedication he builds clinics, contains epidemics and tends to the down-trodden, giving them the attention, medical and moral, that they have always been denied.The author spent several years, off and on with Farmer and witnessed first-hand, how this incredible man, creates a safety net for the under-privileged, not only in Haiti, but also in Peru, Cuba, Russia and other locations.This is riveting narrative non-fiction and it will inform, inspire and prove that these devastating issues can be dealt with in an effective and humane way. Highly recommended.more
Amazing book, has stayed with me intently. As a nurse, and as one who has visited Haiti, the home of my husband's family it particularly moved me. I really enjoyed the level of detail in program development and the insight into Paul Farmer's motivation and inspiration. I would recommend it to many people for a variety of reasons. Inspirational, truly profound.more
Great book about Doctor Paul Farmer and his work in Haiti and on behalf of poor populations all over the world. What a man.more
A fun, twisty, musical bit of metafiction. The narrator is Leslie Shepherd, a gentlemanly critic and folk-music collector in search of the Next Great British Composer, the last one having lived a couple hundred years earlier (more if you’re not going to count imports like Handel). Shepherd is no Serenus Zeitblom, who narrated the story of demonic atonal composer Adrian Leverkuhn and didn’t intrude too much on the story himself (though, like Shepherd, he prided himself on being the only one who ‘really understood’ the composer). Shepherd actively, well, shepherds the career of budding composer Charles Jessold. The narrative is told as a flashback – we learn at the beginning that Jessold has killed his wife and her lover on the eve of the premiere of his first opera. Shepherd purports to be Jessold’s biographer and describes their first meeting, excursions to collect English country songs, which generate the germ for the opera, Jessold’s early successes, travels to Germany followed by his imprisonment during the war and subsequent decline into alcoholism and assholism. However, Shepherd makes various revisions to his story, leaving readers to decide whether to trust this unreliable narrator. In whatever version you look at though, Shepherd’s behavior is slightly or very creepy. His mentor role, and other roles, are very controlling even though is seems that he is matched by the selfish Jessold. The book is quite entertaining. There’s a good dose of humor and the quality of the writing is very high. Shepherd certainly has a lot of faults and might be a bit of a stereotypical British stuffed-shirt who naturally opposes Schoenberg and his ilk, but you feel bad for him for taking all the nasty treatment that Jessold metes out. The Jessold-Shepherd relationship is well-developed, but there was whole mess of male characters surrounding Jessold who sort of blended in together (though one, avant-garde critic Standing inspires this gem – “I was beginning to dislike him in the same way that the bibliophile, unsuccessfully combing musty bookshops for the works of an obscure writer, takes against the innocent author whose name the alphabet happens to place next and whose books are in plentiful supply. Standing was that latter author: always available, always at hand, not at all what I wanted.”) Shepherd’s wife Miriam also seems a bit hazy as a character. Some of the plot points are predictable, but others not so much. Stace is at home with the musical elements – a lot of composer names and works are casually dropped into the story (always relevant though – and everything can be quickly wiki-ed), and Stace gives a quick cameo to Leverkuhn. The only infodumping comes with the story of Gesualdo, but that makes sense in the development of the plot. A very good read.more
A powerful profile of an amazing man, Dr. Paul Farmer. He's one of those people that just doesn't seem real--he has the energy, passion, and genius of a hundred men. His story and philosophy is inspiring and makes you reconsider your own outlook on the world and think about how much you are doing to help those in need. And while this book describes deplorable conditions in Haiti and Peru and elsewhere, the tone is never depressing, because of Farmer's eternally optimistic approach.more
Published in 2003, this continues to be a powerful and inspiring biography of Dr. Paul Farmer (and Ophelia Dahl along with a team of physicians) who changed global health by their dedicated hard work in Haiti. Founders of Partners in Health, major inroads were made in the treatment of tuberculosis/HIV. Illustrates how passion and dedication does make a difference.more
Awe inspiring! Wow. It is engaging, educational and, above all, a great read! Mountains Beyond Mountains. It tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health, which is an organization that fights disease and poverty among the globe's poorest and sickest in countries such as Haiti, Rwanda and Peru. His personal quest to treat patients one by one, improve their lives and fight for global health equality is impressive.more
Doctor who goes Haiti - loved the beginning but bogged down in details in last half, definitely worth reading - Conniemore
Mountains Beyond Mountains is the real life account of Dr. Paul Farmer, who battles to bring quality medical care to impoverished people in Haiti, Peru and Russia. Well written and moving, I enjoyed reading this more than Three Cups of Tea.more
Dr. Paul Farmer is a man with a mission. Working tirelessly to alleviate suffering in Haiti, he is the male equivalent of Mother Teresa. When he answered the call to visit Haiti after graduation from Duke University, he fell in love with the country and its impoverished people. I'm in awe of this compassionate and brilliant man who had the dedication and energy to lead the double life of a medical student at Harvard while realizing his dream of building a medical clinic for the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Raising funds, studying, traveling back and forth while earning doctorates in medicine and anthropology -- this is an incredibly inspired and inspiring man.With the heart of an anthropologist, Farmer absorbed the complexity of Haiti's history, geography, religion, political exploitation, and shaky economic system. He loved nothing better than showing visitors the beauty of the land and people which he called "translating Haiti." Author Tracy Kidder likewise does an admirable job translating Paul Farmer as a driven man who transformed his self-proclaimed white-trash background into an internationally renowned infectious disease expert working through his Partners in Health organization to eradicate drug resistant TB. He travels extensively, but his heart remains as a healer in Haiti caring for "the least of these."Tracy Kidder has been a behind-the-scenes writer of varied subjects including computers, the classroom, and living in a nursing home, but he really gets into this Haiti story. By this I mean he literally becomes a character in the book as he interacts with Dr. Farmer and his colleagues. This added an interesting dimension to the book, making it more personal. I felt the pain and thirst of their all-day treks up the steep mountains to check on the well-being of patients as well as the tension of visiting a prison in Siberia in order to influence the method of treating a TB epidemic. These are just two examples in the multi-faceted life of a modern-day champion of the down-and-out so convincingly rendered by an author who clearly shares Dr. Farmer's passion.more
Inspiring people and story.more
Mountains Beyond Mountains can be seen as a biography about Dr. Paul Farmer within the context of his love for Haiti. Mountains Beyond Mountains can also be seen as a travel book, a great way to learn about Haiti's culture and climate, it's people and politics. Haiti is a conflicted country so there is a lot to tell. Kidder is sensitive to Farmer's intense passion for medicine and does not diminish the magnitude of sacrifices Farmer has made for it. Relationships and health suffer when Farmer single-minded tenacity neglects everything else.more
Tracy Kidder has written a very readable biography of Dr. Paul Farmer: a rarely selfless and accomplished person, an anthropologist, infectious disease specialist, Harvard Professor and reformer of public health policy. Farmer loves practicing medicine, and most importantly, he loves patients. A true genius (he did win a MacArthur Fellowship) he is able to look at a problem, like Multiple Drug Resistant Tuberculosis, and see not just the disease, but all the conditions that allow it to exist: poverty, overcrowding, malnutrition, war, political corruption, ecological disaster, blind adherence to routine -- and devise a treatment routine effective on a global level. He takes on patients who most would find it reasonable to ignore. He believes the poor have a right to real, clean, modern medical treatment, and, through the foundation he helped found - Partners In Health - has found ways to provide it. One of my favorite quotes from the book: "How does one person with great talents come to exert a force on the world? I think in Farmer's case the answer lies somewhere in the apparent craziness, the sheer impracticality of half of everything he does..." another "If you do the right thing you avoid futility." He's impractical in the way he sees every person as important, every patient as worth treating, then he goes out into the world and finds a way to get the money and helpers to do it. His religion is liberation theology, his philosophy is the preferential option for the poor which means that the poor deserve to be helped, even if such help is a burden on the rich, but he's so intelligent and so charismatic that he's able to convince the rich to bear at least a part of that burden. He set up a small clinic in Haiti, Zanmi Lasante that's become a 104 bed hospital with satellites, schools, and resident training. Then he went on to set up clinics and treatment methods in Peru and the prisons of Russia. I think Kidder was as charmed as the reader by Dr. Farmer, and that's why he was able to spend enough time with him to write such a moving book.more
My brother has been trying to get me to read this for a year, and after the Haiti earthquake I finally checked it out. He was right that it is a page turner. It is a biography of Paul Farmer, a genius who has created an oasis in a poverty stricken area of Haiti to treat patients as well as gone on to fight TB around the world by challenging the accepted ways of dealing with disease and poverty. I struggled with the book. Even Farmer admits in the beginning that what he is doing is pallative. Treating one patient at a time of diseases that mainly afflict people in poverty. Yet he does create communities and schools in the hopes that it will give them more opportunity than sex trade, but in a place like Haiti the goal for most is to find a way out if educated. It feels dismal and I realized when I got to one of the final chapter where he explains that his fight is is a fight of defeat. He will not succeed in treating every patient, but will fight to do it and if that includes a lot of money to change people's circumstances so there is less chance for infectious diseases then he will do it.more
One of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time. Anyone who aspires to be a doctor or wants to re-think their approach to life should read this.more
Excellent story that seems to capture the real Paul Farmer -- well written, engaging, nothing sentimental or maudlin, gives the background that explains much of current work that Partners in Health does in the world today. Paul Farmer is seeable and hearable on YouTube videos which adds a very sweet dimension to the book.more
What a marvelous book! It is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who grew up poor, living for years in a bus with five siblings or on a boat. He grew up with a fierce desire to help people. He got into Harvard medical school, and while there got interested in Haiti and all its severe problems. He went to one of the poorer regions in a poor country, and he has proven over and over that hard work, organization, imagination, good medical practices, personal attention, and some money can make a big difference. Necessarily he and his coworkers became experts in tuberculosis, since it is one of Haiti's major medical problems. They had a lot of success treating drug resistant TB, using a different and more effective regimen than recommended by the World Health Organization. Farmer and his colleagues in Partner in Health became busier than ever, working on TB in Peru and in Russian prisons.Kidder is a terrific writer. He gives a great sense of what an amazing but wholly human character Farmer is, as well as some of his coworkers. The book proves that one person CAN make a difference, but few are as capable as Farmer. Those of us without his talents can but support him however we are able.Well, now I can add another hero to my list. Last year it was Greg Mortenson, profiled in Three Cups of Tea. This year its Paul Farmer - and it is only January!more
Inspiring story of how one man can really make a difference in this world. Dr Farmer has described his work battling TB in Haiti (and later Peru and Russia) as "the long defeat", but after reading 'Mountains' I would characterize his accomplishments as just the opposite. This is an inspiring, heartwrenching, interesting and complicated story and Kidder tells it very well. You don't have to be a medical professional to appreciate this book--a definite recommend.more
Meet Dr. Paul Farmer: Harvard medical professor, medical anthropologist, infectious disease specialist, doctor and one strong advocate for the poor. MBM documents Farmer's life and accomplishments, but above all portrays him as a doctor with a world-wide base of patients who cannont afford the most basic neccessities of life. Farmer established an organization called Partners in Health, that's entire goal is to create (his terms) a Preferential Option for the Poor (O for the P). basically it means putting the needs of the poor above all others since they do not have any way to meet them themselves. PIH has branches in Haiti, Peru, Siberia, and Boston and it's entire purpose is to treat the truly destitute and sick -- free of charge. His story is awe inspiring and the author was able illustrate his character without ever really deifying him. He even documents their arguments! Very interesting story about someone who has dedicated their life to improving the lives of others.more
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