Mountains Beyond Mountains

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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 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.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Read and be awed.
    To read this book is to be amazed by the fantastic possibilities of the human will. Paul Farmer lives out what many people would deem impossible, and he continues to do so to this day. Appropriate for people of all professions and interests, this book speaks to the heart of all who are privileged to read it....more info
  • A Contrast Between What Should Be and What Is
    "Mountains Beyond Mountains" is no exception to Tracy Kidder's excellent body of work. I have been a fan since he wrote "Soul of a New Machine." Kidder impressed me then, as he does now, with his upfront investment of time before putting pen to paper. Fortunately for us, his hard work translates to first class storytelling.

    The title "Mountains Beyond Mountains" is a metaphor for life - once you have scaled one mountain (challenge), there are more to come. This is especially true for Paul Farmer, MD, who has devoted his life to what most people call "the impossible." He has faced mountain after mountain in his quest to help mankind.

    Farmer starts out devoting his life to providing the most rudimentary medical care to impoverished Haitians (the shafted of the shafted). By age 27, he had treated more illnesses than most doctors would see in a lifetime. With time, he finds himself on the world stage trying to find a cure for drug resistant tuberculosis, undertaking the difficult role of a global fundraiser, and fighting big pharma for lower drug prices. He is a modern day medical hero.

    For me, Farmer serves as a startling contrast to Robert K. Maloney, MD, the well known Los Angeles ophthalmologist who has been featured on TV's "Extreme Make-over." Maloney, who was profiled October 26, 2004 in the Wall Street Journal, said that after he completed his medical training, he came to a disquieting conclusion: "I really didn't like sick people." Maloney has since specialized in LASIK refractive surgery (considered cosmetic surgery) and pampers his patients with 25 person staff, and a suit-and-tie concierge who serves pastries and coffee in the waiting room. He then follows up after his patients return home with a gift box of gourmet chocolate chip cookies and a mug bearing the invitation, "Wake up and smell the coffee." He says he now earns more than the $1.2 million in salary and bonuses he made during his last year at UCLA (several years ago), but he won't say how much.

    Farmer serves as reminder of what medicine aspired to be - the buck as only a means to an end....ending poverty, ending tuberculosis, ending the plight of many humans who cannot receive treatment from a qualified and trained doctor. Dr. Maloney serves as a reminder of what medicine has become - the buck and celebrity as ends. We should all get one of Maloney's mugs so we, too, can "Wake up and smell the coffee" ...before it is too late.

    Read "Mountains Beyond Mountains," if only to regain hope of what medicine can be.

    ...more info
  • Strange Life Encounters
    I had the joy of meeting Dr. Farmer in March of this year. I had no idea who he was. I do remember being very impressed with him, his staff, and the hospital in Haiti. I wasn't expecting this book to be as good as it is. I just bought it to find out more about Dr. Farmer. I appreciate the every man out look that Mr. Kidder used in writing this book. This style makes it easier for anyone to read. I have only recommended one other book besides this one, to read. I like the fact that it takes a more humanistic look at doing work in other countries. We should all try a little harder....more info
  • 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. I hate to get racial about things (especially since Caucasians tend to tune out nowadays, when ever an African American does so, refusing to even listen to what's being said, as will be demonstrated, I predict, by the many who will push "No" at the bottom of this review to indicate that it wasn't helpful). But I think that, as a so-called race, Caucasians can read this book and pat themselves on the back for producing a Paul Farmer. Here's why I say this. Clearly, the book portrays Haiti as an extremely poor and oppressed place, where too many of those in power are extremely uncaring about the poor. So bad are conditions there, and so amazing is Paul Farmer that Caucasians can pat themselves on the back for producing someone like him, and, simultaneously let themselves off the hook for maintaining the type of society we have here in the U.S. because, at least in the U.S. the poor aren't faring nearly as badly as they are in Haiti. And look at who is making the biggest difference of all down there: not another Haitian; not another "black person" period, but "one of their own." The other thing that struck me about this book. Kidder is much older than Paul Farmer. Yet throughout the book, he displays an awe of Farmer. Here's why this interests me. I cannot imagine this same writer displaying a similar awe for an African American physician, no matter how talented that physician was. I may be wrong. But in my experience with the vast majority of Caucasians, rare is the African American they don't condescend to. Rare is the African American of any background, whom they don't expect to prove that he or she deserves even the basics of their respect, no matter what the African American's vocation (unless that vocation has something to do with athletics or entertainment). Yet at the same time, rare is the African American who, like Farmer, would be willing to turn conventional wisdom in a scientific field on its head, rather than conform to accepted notions in her or his field in order to prove that he or she deserves the respect of peers. This is why I have such mixed feelings about this book. I admire Farmer and am convinced of his sincerity of mission. But I am conflicted about how he is being used by a publishing and media environment eager to prove that the world would be lost without Caucasians of intelligence and good will....more info
  • One to be sure your children read
    This is a wonderfully written account of some of the most significant health care activities of the past 30 years. The work, the people, and the accomplishments surely rank with our new health care innovations. The book is well written, I laughed, cried, and was moved. Upon completion of the book I let my two teenage duaghters know I am ordering one for each of them so at some point in their lives they will pick up and read and feel this description of work that is based both on the heart and the mind. This is a book to keep on your desk....more info
  • Absolutely Outstanding!
    One of the best works of nonfiction we have ever read and a truly inspiring story of what genius + boundless caring can accomplish....more info
  • Inspiring and interesting
    Reads like a gripping novel. It is reassuring to know that someone like Paul Farmer exists in this cynical world....more info
  • Encouraged to Action
    Dr. Paul Farmer proves that "seemingly intractable problems can be solved." I tend to look at the problems in Haiti and think one of two thoughts, maybe we should just bulldoze the place and start over or my little bit of help will not amount too much. This excellent account of Paul's life work convinces me that I must commit to work to lift people out of poverty. Read this book and you will find yourself giving it to those who need encouragement and you will be reading it again when you need encouragement to do your part to change our world....more info
  • I nominate Paul Farmer for sainthood
    Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder tells us about Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist who has been working in Haiti since 1982. Farmer founded an apolitical organization that's the only source of medical care for hundreds of thousands of peasants. For his Herculean efforts, in 1993 he received a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation - and of course he plowed the money right back into his organization.
    That Farmer has chosen this path is not so surprising when one considers his unconventional childhood, which included living on a leaky boat and in a bus. As a scholarship student at Duke (anthropology major), he worked in the NC tobacco fields with Haitians. After graduation, he spent a year in Haiti and then went to Harvard Medical School. He's married and has a child, but he sees them infrequently; he rarely sleeps, is a workaholic (duh!), and seems to inspire an uncommon degree of devotion among his coworkers and his patients.
    Buy this book, and be aware that part of your money will doubtless find its way back to Haiti. Then send an additional donation to Partners in Health....more info
  • I Browsed Through it Yesterday and Couldn't Put It Down
    I am very busy right now, and like Kidder, am an author and journalist. But I read about this book, and as a result, was in a bookstore in Brooklyn Heights yesterday and browsed through it. I could not put it down. Here's what interests me about this doctor. As an African American interested in the issue of why, collectively, we haven't advanced intellectually, any further than we have, I am jealous of Caucasians who harbor the self-confidence to change the rules, rather than have to try to prove they even belong in the room. I think that Afro-America needs more people like this, rather than those of us consumed with "proving" that we are just as intelligent as everyone else. Hats off to Kidder and Farmer. This guy is truly inspirational, and I intend to use his story as part of a book I'm working on (my fourth). My only caveat to his attitude is his belief that there's something to the religious beliefs of the poor. I happen to think that religion has been the bane of the poor, especially to people of black African heritage. Subscribing to it too much has been one of the principal reasons that not enough of us have adequately developed our intellects....more info
  • A True American Hero
    Tracy Kidder has again written a wonderfully readable book about a real person whose life is an inspiration. Dr. Paul Farmer is a true hero who would "cure the world". Mr. Kidder again shows his great talent for bringing the main character and his work alive in the pages of his book. I've have read all of Tracy Kidder's books so far and they have all been memorable for his ability to portray real people who are interesting because of their "humanness"; this, though, is the best....more info
  • 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.

    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....more info

  • Inspirational and instructive
    Mountains Beyond Mountains really helped me to understand the immense poverty faced by the people of Haiti. Paul Farmer's quest to provide these people the healthcare they deserve is an inspiration that should be required reading for young people or anybody leading a self centered and materialistic life. Americans need to be reminded of how fortunate they truly are and how we all take things like healthcare, housing, clean water and job availability for granted. My son "read" the audio book for his summer reading assignment and finished it in about one week. Highly recommended!...more info
  • Paul Farmer -- The very picture of sainthood
    MBM is the story of Paul Farmer, legendary lecturer and epidemiologist, and a devoted and perceptive doctor who works among the poorest of the poor in Haiti and elsewhere. Farmer is one of those annoying people who eschews protocol and social niceties in order to keep his patients alive. He will "borrow" medicines from wealthy hospitals for use in his clinic. He will literally walk miles up steep mountains to make sure that his TB patients are taking all his medicines. This is not out of a desire to be nice, but because he knows that a missed dose can mean that a treatable disease will become one impervious to medicine and cut a wider swath of death.

    Farmer is a proponent of Archbishop's Oscar Romero's brand of liberation theology which sees Christ in the suffering of the poor and works for better lives for them. While Farmer's actions are based in this theological insight, they are practiced in the shacks of Haiti, the favelas of Peru, the streets of Boston and the prisons of Moscow--anywhere that drug-resistant forms of TB and other diseases have a stranglehold on communities.

    Paul Farmer is a saint - the kind of eccentric, dedicated lunatic who brings God's healing and compassion to the poor. He is no respecter of men, but a person whose theory comes from the streets, not from textbooks.

    I suggest the book over the abridged CD, read by author Tracy Kidder. The CD skimps on some of the most colorful stories and leaves out much of Farmer's theological grounding, which is a vital layer of his personality. And while Kidder is a fine author, his reading style tends toward the doleful and acerbic....more info
  • Can I Still Get Into Medical School?
    This is the kind of book that makes you want to change your life. Paul Farmer is an inspiration, a sort of secular saint. His devotion to others is incredible, his wisdom awesome, and his consistent ethic of service heroic, but it all seems humanly possible as well. As result, you want to go out and volunteer. If I were younger, I'd seriously consider medical school -- as it is Kidder's book provides strength for the journey I'm already on. Farmer's example has been in my heart ever since I read the book a month ago. I feel better for knowing him -- his example makes it easier to serve others without resentment and to listen to them with eagerness and interest. Not only is Farmer an extraordinary human being, but even his story makes us better too. I recommend this to everyone, young and old. This is what life is all about. ...more info
  • A relentless man of action
    "People call me a saint and I think, I have to work harder. Because a saint would be a great thing to be." This quote recurred in my mind often while reading Pulitzer winner ("The Soul of a New Machine") Kidder's profile of Dr. Paul Farmer, an amazing man "who would cure the world."

    Now in paperback, this is a harrowing, heart-wrenching, heroic story of Haiti as well as the man who knew at age 23, before entering Harvard Medical School, that he had found his life's work there. The portrayal of Haiti's poverty is staggering. It's so all encompassing and deeply rooted that many idealists return home defeated and burned out.

    Farmer, however, rejects the existing inadequate, bureaucracy-ridden clinics, and establishes his own public health system/clinic/hospital in a remote, mountainous area. Poverty there has been intensified by US aid, in the form of a dam, which deprived subsistence farmers of their land to benefit US-owned agribusiness downstream.

    The product of an unconventional childhood, spent in a camper bus and a houseboat, Farmer is brilliant and tireless. He passed his medical school years mostly in Haiti and still graduated near the top of his class. During home intervals he was, and is, relentless about raising money. He shows little patience for "WLs," white liberals, who shy from personal sacrifice. He doesn't hesitate to impose his views. Wealth amid so much world poverty is absolute anathema to him. He inspires and intimidates. Close friends often feel inadequate, sometimes resentful and guilty. He's also sunny-natured, highly emotional and charismatic. The combination often seems to overwhelm people, including Kidder.

    Kidder chronicles the building of Haiti's Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health) from its inception to its position as Farmer's home base, the place where he still practices hands-on medicine between worldwide jaunts promoting TB and AIDs policies and raising money. Kidder travels with him, to Cuba, Russia, Venezuela, and the reader can only marvel at the man's capacity for work and personal engagement and be glad there are such people in the world....more info
  • One Man's Quest To Make A Difference
    In a world teeming with five billion souls, can one person make a difference? Tracy Kidder's latest book, "Mountains Beyond Mountains," answers that question with a resounding "yes." This is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, described in the subtitle as "a man who would cure the world." An audacious claim, to be sure, but one that Kidder backs up in the 300-plus pages that follow.

    Once again, Kidder has brought all his storytelling ability to bear on a saga that manages to illuminate the basic values we live by. Farmer had an unconventional childhood to say the least, having spent much of it living on a converted bus. In medical school, Farmer found a purpose for his life. The story first unfolds in the country where Farmer made his initial mark, and where his heart remains, Haiti. Kidder--and by extension, the reader--then travels with Farmer as his growing stature leads to his work expanding to Peru, Cuba and Russia. Although treating individual patients will always be a significant part of Farmer's lifework, it's clear that he also has a role to play on the world stage. His leadership and determination are being brought to bear on the frightening spread of MDR tuberculosis (MDR is shorthand for a multi-drug resistant strain of the disease.)

    Kidder is a truly outstanding observer and reporter. It's obvious he's managed to win the confidence of Farmer, his family, close associates and others in telling the story. The author is an active observer and participant in the narrative, and while he guides the reader toward certain conclusions, he manages to avoid strident sermonizing or philosophizing. It shows a definite respect for the intelligence of the audience.

    Dr. Farmer may be known to some readers--he's a former recipient of a McArthur Foundation "genius grant" and has been interviewed on 60 Minutes. But whether this is an introduction or reintroduction, the man who emerges from these pages has a remarkable depth that has only been known to his intimates until now. All his superhuman qualities are there, along with a few very human traits as well. It will be a stone-hearted reader who isn't moved and angered by the inequalities that Dr. Farmer, through his patients, confronts every day of his life. And only that sort of person could fail to be inspired by the remarkable example of character, courage and commitment that this man lives each day of his life.--William C. Hall...more info
  • 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 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 is a motivator and an absolute must for anyone working in the development field....more info
  • My hero
    People like Dr. Farmer have always amazed me. How someone could be so selfless to the point where he would feel guilty that he cared more about his own child than a child in Haiti. This man is my hero. An excellent book that takes you into not only the life and thoughts of Dr. Farmer, but the realities of international health, the crisis in Haiti and how simple true actions make alll the difference. ...more info
  • 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. The only regret I have about this book is that when I finished reading it, I sighed as I realized it would probably be a long, long time until I could find a book that was as engrossing and challenging. Here are some recommendations on what to read after you finish with the story of Dr. Paul Farmer. Try and find "Not All of Us Are Saints: A Doctor's Journey with the Poor" by David Hilfiker. Check out "Loaves and Fishes" by the legendary Dorothy Day. Finally, read "All on Fire: William Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery" by Henry Mayer. Enjoy!...more info
  • As close as you'll get without going there
    Kidder's work, Mountains Beyond Mountains, paints an accurate picture of medical care, health issues, and the challenges faced daily by millions of destitute Haitians, by highlighting the experiences of Dr. Paul Farmer. The book is quite representative of the sad state of affairs in present day Haiti. That Dr. Farmer has been able to implement in a small way a solution to some of the problems in central Haiti, in spite of all the challenges that have presented themselves, mountains beyond mountains, if you will, is profoundly inspiring. It is remarkable that this tenacious advocate for the poor has been able to maintain his comittment to his work in Haiti and around the world. The story of Dr. Farmer and his work is gripping. Once you begin you will be unable to put the book down....more info
  • A Man With A Plan
    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....more info
  • Go MAD
    Go MAD is the logo for the Northwood University football team (tied for first place in 2004)in Midland, Michigan. It stands for GO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, that is exactly what Paul Farmer, a Harvard graduate and professor, has done. He is possessed with a passion for the poverty stricken in 3rd world countries and has made gigantic leaps and bounds in the medical field in these countries by dedicating his life to feeding them, assisting them medically, living simplistically among them and loving them. He is an inspiration to the entire world. Butler University in Indianapolis is requiring their incoming freshmen to read this book prior to orientation. Many other communities, especially in Boston, are promoting everyone to read it. The New York Times calls Farmer a world class Robin Hood. It's time for Oprah to make it the book-of-the-month club selection! God bless Paul Farmer....more info
  • both thrilling and important
    You might think the story of a caregiver in the poorest country in the western hemisphere would be depressing. You might think that learning about the "Global ATM"-- aids, tuberculosis, and malaria-- and that these three diseases kill six million poor people a year, would be depressing.

    Yet, the story of Paul Farmer is energizing, and will leave you breathless as you see the human potential of one person to make an enormous difference. Tracy Kidder is at his best in this book, and does a magnificent job covering different shades of character and events.

    And finally, this book is also a love story with the Haitian people, a people cursed by 200 years of bad government and western imperialism, for whom even the smallest effort and assistance will save many lives.

    Please read this book, and buy it as a present for those you love. It can change your world.

    ps, see for info about my first trip to Haiti, taken as a result of this book....more info

  • 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. 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....more info

  • 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. Alot of WLs (white liberals) talk the talk but this 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....more info
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains
    In a world where it is easy to feel as though we are helpless in the face of everyday violence, war, greed, and inhumanity, the story of Dr. Paul Farmer and his colleagues is an important reminder of the power within all of us to contribute to a better, more just world. I suspect many people who read this book begin it with little or no knowledge of Haiti's history nor of its desperate situation today (not something we see in school curriculums!) and so the book also serves as a great "primer" for readers on Haiti and the impact of US policy there. Tracy Kidder does an excellent job of allowing us to "shadow" the steps of Paul Farmer as he moves in Haiti and around the world. I think Kidder's detailing of his own evolving relationship with Paul Farmer is particularly well done. He does an excellent job of chronicling the details of personalities, individuals, and events without ever letting the reader lose sight of the larger global context in which they are situated....more info
    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 material appearences and the plight of Michael Jackson or Martha Stuart than about the needless death of millions of poor people, Thank God there are people like Dr Farmer, PIH et al. I have had the opportunity to work first hand with medical teams in impoverished parts of South America and know exactly the exhilarations and heartbreaks that Mr Kidder describes in his book. This book caused me some self examination and reminded to always keep patients and families at the heart of my trips instead of selfishly looking for that "good feeling" that comes from helping someone less fortunate. Dr Farmer's courage and dedication will blow you away - how can one man do so much? READ THIS BOOK and if you are moved then don't hestitate helping where it is needed. Try the following:
    Partners in Health (Dr Farmer's organization)
    American Leprosy Mission (
    Healing the Children (
    Shared Hope International (
    On a final note I have shared this book with my college and highschool children who have gone on to share it with their friends - change starts small....more info
  • Will stir debates on wide-ranging issues
    This book chronicles the life of Dr. Paul Farmer -- a physician and medical anthropologist who has become a leading expert on infectious diseases in Haiti. Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder's prose is both clear and engaging as he invokes Farmer's saintly presence (inviting comparison to Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa). At other times, however, Kidder allows Farmer's less saintly ambitions to emerge. This book will likely sir debates on such wide ranging issues as the politics of health care, the role of government funding, and ethics. Highly recommended. Stephen D. Glazier, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Geography, University of Nebraska-Lincoln ...more info
  • Viagra for the Heart and Soul
    I got a copy of Tracy Kidder's book to read and my wife started it early this morning. She is a voracious reader and a very critical reader, not easy to please. When I woke up she had been reading since 4:30 am and I have never seen her so excited by a book. She thought Kidder did an extraordinary job of going far beyond the New Yorker piece and explaining not just HOW Paul Farmer is an amazing human being, but attempting to explain WHY Paul is the way he is. (She is a psychotherapist, and looks at this question all the time. She has an extraordinary ability in her work to see the kernal.) She was also awed by how Kidder drew on so many different fields and conveyed explanations about anthropology, religion, politics, and medicine in a clear and compelling way.

    I repeat: I have lived with this woman for 30 years and I have never, ever, seen her so excited about a book. I know this is not the stuff that blurbs or NY Times book reviews are made of, but I wanted to pass this on to other readers....more info

  • amazingggggggg book!!!
    Honestly this is the first book besides a text book that I have been able to read and enjoy probably since I was in middle school. I'm a pre-med student hoping to go to medical school and I honestly never thought I could read a book for mere enjoyment. I received this book yesterday and finished it today. I was so captivated by the story and how real dr. farmers character was portrayed by kidder. This book is most definitely a "must read" for anyone who is looking to pursuing a career in any aspect of health care. Most enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone... but hey what do I know... this is the first book i've read since goosebumps "the blob"!!...more info
  • 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 interesting read, offering new insight about Farmer himself. While the book did offer a new look at Dr. Farmer, I was dissapointed with the character depicted. While I do not know if Kidder's characterization of Farmer is accurate, it is a depiction that left a poor taste in my mouth about a man that I previously admired. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Farmer comes across as arrogant, self interested, and suffering from a God complex. The book reads like another tribute to an ego that already suffers from too much stroking.
    Farmer's work does not lose its importance nor does his public health approach become less credible if this portrayal is accurate. However, it does lessen my interest and admiration in the man behind Partners In Health.
    Substantively, the book covers much of what those who have read Pathologies in Power, The Uses of Haiti and any of Farmer's academic pieces has already learned so much of the book is redundant. 3 stars....more info
  • 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.

    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....more info

  • Great Book
    This is an exceptional book written by Tracy Kidder. So much depth. I recommend it highly.

    also want to recommend Nightmares Echo and Secret Life Of Bees...more info

  • Not a Saint-more interesting than that.
    Kidder's penetration of what makes Dr. Paul Farmer tick provides a profound insite into the healing process for people and society. This book will make you rethink a lot of stuff. It is not another testimonial to somebody with saintly characteristics. Paul Farmer is amazing, and also amazingly complex. It's a book one definetely rereads....more info
  • A true hero in our time
    Dr. Paul Farmer is an amazing human being who shows us all what is possible to do to provide medical care in developing countries with respect and excellent levels of care. Tracy Kidder, author, portrayed Farmer in a realistic way allowing Farmer's passion and desire to help the sick who live in abject poverty in Haiti come through as a mission, not as a do-gooder. Everyone can learn something from this book--at minimum, what horrible conditions exist in Haiti, a country so close to the USA. Thanks, Tracy Kidder, for bringing this story to light to inspire us all. Having traveled with him and going to Haiti for first hand insight makes the reader astonished at the power of one. ...more info
  • 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 caring to third-world patients. Farmer seems to spend half of his year on the Harvard faculty as an infectious disease specialist, half the year managing other worldwide health programs targeted to the poor through his organization Partners in Health, and half his year at the clinic. If you added that up to three halves of a year, that's intentional on Kidder's part: Farmer is entirely tireless and seems to work as hard as six ordinary people.

    The focus of the book's narrative is really Farmer himself. Kidder seems fascinated with Farmer as a person: his background growing up in Florida, on boats and in trailers, a step up from poverty himself. His early experiences in Haiti. His eccentricities and even his romances. Kidder does not exactly make Farmer seem saint-like (he's definitely capable of losing his temper), but he does seem to have cast him as the hero of an adventure movie of some sort.

    Beyond the hero, though (maybe Matt Damon in the movie? Jude Law?) there is a more important, serious message about the perilously entwined nature of poverty and health-care. To Farmer (and Kidder) providing sub-standard healthcare to the 3rd-wolrd poor is not merely injust, it is also ineffective.

    Read this book, then go on to read something more by Farmer, who is a great writer in his own right: Ineffections and Inequalities, for example. Although the heroic part of Kidder's book makes the book highly readable, the real benefit to reading the book for me personally has been motivating me to learn more about this essential subject....more info


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