Photo Courtesy of Random House Publishing
A Haitian Proverb claims that beyond mountains there exists more mountains. This proverb guides the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who, despite his already influential work, continues on to climb to higher peaks, reach more glorious views and save more lives. “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” a biographical work written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracey Kidder, tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man whose determination to change the world led to incredible developments in medical care on both individual and international levels.
Unlike many biographical pieces, in “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Farmer’s life is not depicted in chronological order. Kidder allows the reader to journey with Farmer without any presuppositions, and through story after story one learns why Farmer has become world-renowned for his humanitarian work as a doctor, anthropologist and compassionate human being.
Kidder illustrates Farmer’s life from stories about his unconventional, challenging childhood to his graduation from Harvard Medical School, as well as his frequent trips throughout the world providing medical care in remote villages and advocating for the administration of medical care for the impoverished.
From his numerous trips to Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia to his work in the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, Farmer displays his earnest dedication to his patients and his ability to see the innate dignity that every human being possesses. From a Haitian AIDs-infected villager to the drug-addict, alcoholic, HIV-positive Boston homeless shelter dweller, Farmer treats each of his patients with love and compassion, healing many and comforting all.
In addition to highlighting Farmer’s work on an individual level, the book also discusses Farmer’s journey as the founder of Partners In Heath, an international health care program that aims to bring medical care and most importantly, comfort and hope, to the impoverished throughout the world.
Though Kidder admits Farmer is saint-like, Farmer does have relationship troubles and temperamental flaws that are displayed in this biographical work. These shortcomings display Farmer’s humanity and serve to remind the readers that we, along with Farmer, are each flawed, but can still make a difference regardless of our own failings.
Kidder’s piece is a must-read for revolutionaries, justice advocates, students and nine-to-five workers alike. “Mountains Beyond Mountains” serves as a source of inspiration and hope for everyone, despite the grave circumstances that exist in our impoverished and diseased world. The story of Dr. Paul Farmer reminds us that the determination and drive of an individual really can change the world.
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