Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Written by Tracy Kidder, Narrated by Paul Michael

Reason for Reading: This was meant to be read for my Social Justice Theme in February, but things didn’t work out quite as I’d planned. I finished the book in January, and haven’t had the time to review it until now. 🙂 Better late than never!

Review

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. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder

  1. Sounds like a great book about an extraordinary person.

    The sort of folks who travel to impoverished places and who try to make the world better are always inspiring to read about.

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  2. I really liked Kidder's Soul of a New Machine when I read years ago, but I haven't thought of reading anything by him since. I do tend to like books like this.

    > 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 imagine the overwhelming feeling–I've been ready about the abolitionists, and I have the same admiring but overwhelmed feeling.

    BTW, I like your non-traditional challenges. For example, the Non-fiction Non-memoir Reading Challenge!

    Happy reading…

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  3. This sounds like an interesting book and I love that you said the character was “an amazing man with a daring love for humanity.” It certainly has me curious to read it. I read Mr. Kidder's the Strength in What Remains which is about a man who leaves his corrupt native country of Burundi to escape the horrible genocide of its citizens. It was a haunting and inspiring story, sounds like this one is too. here's my review of Strength in What Remains if you're interested in stopping by…http://momssmallvictories.com/25/

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