Format: Trade Paperback
Dimensions: 352 pages, 8.26 × 5.61 × 0.96 in
Published: August 25, 2009
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0812980557
ISBN - 13: 9780812980554
About the Book
At the center of Tracy Kidder's powerful and inspiring book is Dr. Paul Farmer. Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, 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 account shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and how one person can make a difference in solving global health problems through his clear-eyed understanding of how politics, wealth, social systems, and disease interact. "Mountains Beyond Mountains" takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer-brilliant and charismatic-changes people's minds and how they act through his dedication to the philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity."
Read from the Book
Chapter 1 Six years after the fact, Dr. Paul Edward Farmer reminded me, “We met because of a beheading, of all things.” It was two weeks before Christmas 1994, in a market town in the central plateau of Haiti, a patch of paved road called Mirebalais. Near the center of town there was a Haitian army outpost–a concrete wall enclosing a weedy parade field, a jail, and a mustard-colored barracks. I was sitting with an American Special Forces captain, named Jon Carroll, on the building’s second-story balcony. Evening was coming on, the town’s best hour, when the air changed from hot to balmy and the music from the radios in the rum shops and the horns of the tap-taps passing through town grew loud and bright and the general filth and poverty began to be obscured, the open sewers and the ragged clothing and the looks on the faces of malnourished children and the extended hands of elderly beggars plaintively saying, “Grangou,” which means “hungry” in Creole. I was in Haiti to report on American soldiers. Twenty thousand of them had been sent to reinstate the country’s democratically elected government, and to strip away power from the military junta that had deposed it and ruled with great cruelty for three years. Captain Carroll had only eight men, and they were temporarily in charge of keeping the peace among 150,000 Haitians, spread across about one thousand square miles of rural Haiti. A seemingly impossible job, and ye
From the Publisher
This compelling and inspiring book, now in a deluxe paperback edition, shows how one person can work wonders. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Pulitzer Prize—winning author Tracy Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who loves the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.
In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account 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.” 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 a force of gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr notes, “[Paul Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”
From the Jacket
“[A] masterpiece.”—USA Today
“Inspiring, disturbing, daring and completely absorbing.”—New York Times Book Review
“Stunning. Mountains Beyond Mountains will move you, restore your faith in the ability of one person to make a difference in these increasingly maddening, dispiriting times. [Kidder has] held his writer’s mirror up to an astonishing comet of a man whose reflection flatters us all for what it says about our capacity for mercy and healing.”—San Diego Union-Tribune
“Easily the most fascinating, most entertaining and, yes, most inspiring work of non-fiction I’ve read this year.”—San Jose Mercury News
“It’ll fill you equally with wonder and hope.”—People
“If I ever go on a retreat again, this is the kind of book I’d like to take for spiritual reading. . . . [Kidder] knows it is impossible to live like Farmer, but the impossibility is the very thing that can somehow give us life.”—Washington Post Book World
“In this excellent work, Pulitzer Prize—winner Kidder immerses himself in and beautifully explores the rich drama that exists in the life of Dr. Paul Farmer…Throughout, Kidder captures the almost saintly effect Farmer has on those whom he treats.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[A] Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A fine writer and his extraordinary subject: Tracy Kidder, in giving us Paul Farmer, lifts up an image of hope–and challenge–that the world urgently needs. Simply put, this is an important book.” -James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword
“The central character of this marvelous book is one of the most provocative, brilliant, funny, unsettling, endlessly energetic, irksome, and charming characters ever to spring to life on the page. He has embarked on an epic struggle that will take you from the halls of Harvard Medical School to a sun-scorched plateau in Haiti, from the slums of Peru to the cold gray prisons of Moscow. He wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”—Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action
“A profoundly inspiring and important book about one of the truly great men of our time.” —Ethan Canin, author of Carry Me Across the Water
“Here is a genuine hero alive in our times. Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with the force of gathering revelation. Like all of Tracy Kidder’s books, it is as hard to put down as any good and true story.”—Annie Dillard, author of The Writing Life
“Mountains Beyond Mountains is the only book I’ve read in years that made me feel like cheering. It left me uncomfortable, guilty, and exhausted—but it also inspired me, kept me up all night, and moved me to tears. Some readers will find their lives changed forever; everyone else will emerge, at the very least, with an unexpectedly revised set of values. Tracy Kidder has given us not only an unforgettable book but an unignorable life lesson. Hurrah!” —Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
“Rarely has idealism fared so well on the planet as in Tracy Kidder’s eloquently reported Mountains Beyond Mountains. One is tempted to call Paul Farmer’s passionate sensibilities and loving ambitions otherworldly, but only in sadness that there are too few of him in the world. Kidder has provided us all, as the Farmerites say, with a road map to decency, and such an endowment is beyond measure.” —Bob Shacochis, author of Easy in the Islands
"Is there anything Tracy Kidder can't do? This is a beautiful book, and a masterful one. Even better, Mountains Beyond Mountains is a page-turner that will crack your conscience open." -Stacey Schiff, author of Vera
“An incredible story about an incredible man told by an incredible writer. Mountains Beyond Mountains is the sort of book that makes you want to buy a hundred copies and pass them out like a street corner evangelist. It's the sort of book that will affect your life in a profound way. In a good way.” -Thom Jones, author of The Pugilist at Rest
“Saints are notoriously difficult people, but who knew one could be so funny, so utterly charming, and finally so deft in accomplishing that most impossible of all job descriptions—changing the world? Tracy Kidder's spellbinding story presents us with an unlikely saint and finally, with inspiration so compelling it makes the usual cynicism about global change seem indulgent foolishness.”—Patricia Hampl, author of A Romantic Education
About the Author
Tracy Kidder graduated from Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes. The author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, My Detachment, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine, Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.
“[A] masterpiece.”— USA Today “Inspiring, disturbing, daring and completely absorbing.”— New York Times Book Review “Stunning. Mountains Beyond Mountains will move you, restore your faith in the ability of one person to make a difference in these increasingly maddening, dispiriting times. [Kidder has] held his writer’s mirror up to an astonishing comet of a man whose reflection flatters us all for what it says about our capacity for mercy and healing.”— San Diego Union-Tribune “Easily the most fascinating, most entertaining and, yes, most inspiring work of non-fiction I’ve read this year.”— San Jose Mercury News “It’ll fill you equally with wonder and hope.”— People “If I ever go on a retreat again, this is the kind of book I’d like to take for spiritual reading. . . . [Kidder] knows it is impossible to live like Farmer, but the impossibility is the very thing that can somehow give us life.”— Washington Post Book World “In this excellent work, Pulitzer Prize—winner Kidder immerses himself in and beautifully explores the rich drama that exists in the life of Dr. Paul Farmer…Throughout, Kidder captures the almost saintly effect Farmer has on those whom he treats.”— Publishers Weekly , starred review “[A] Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.”— Kirkus Reviews, star
1. Paul Farmer finds ways of connecting with people whose backgrounds are vastly different from his own. How does he do this? Are his methods something to which we can all aspire?
2. Paul Farmer believes that “if you’re making sacrifices . . . you’re trying to lessen some psychic discomfort” (p. 24). Do you agree with the way that Farmer makes personal sacrifices? For what kinds of things do you make sacrifices, and when do you expect others to make them?
3. Kidder points out that Farmer is dissatisfied with the current distribution of money and medicine in the world.What is your opinion of the distribution of these forms of wealth? What would you change, if you could?
4. Farmer designed a study to find out whether there was a correlation between his Haitian patients’ belief in sorcery as the cause of tb and their recovery from that disease through medical treatment.What did he discover about the relative importance of cultural beliefs among his impoverished patients and their material circumstances? Do you think that this discovery might have broad application–for instance, to situations in the United States?
5. The title of the book comes from the Haitian proverb,“Beyond mountains there are mountains.” What does the saying mean in the context of the culture it comes from, and what does it mean in relation to Farmer’s work? Can you think of other situations–personal or societal–for which this proverb might be apt?
6. Paul Farmer had an eccentric childhood, and his accomplishments have been unique. Do you see a correlation between the way Farmer was raised and how he has chosen to live his life? How has your own background influenced your life and your decisions?
7. Compare Zanmi Lasante to the Socios en Salud project in Carabayllo. Consider how the projects got started, the relationships between doctors and patients, and the involvement of the international community.
8. Kidder explains that Farmer and his colleagues at PIH were asked by some academics, “Why do you call your patients poor people? They don’t call themselves poor people” (p. 100). How do Farmer and Jim Kim confront the issue of how to speak honestly about the people they work to help? How do they learn to speak honestly with each other, and what is the importance of the code words and acronyms that they share (for example, amc’s, or Areas of Moral Clarity)?
9. Ophelia Dahl and Tom White both play critical roles in this book and in the story of Partners In Health. How are their acts of compassion different from Farmer’s?
10. Tracy Kidder has written elsewhere that the choice of point of view is the most important an author makes in constructing a work of narrative nonfiction. He has also written that finding a point of view that works is a matter of making a choice among tools, and that the choice should be determined not by theory, but by an author’s immersion in the materials of the story itself. Kidder has never before written a book in which he made himself a character. Can you think of some of the reasons he might have had for doing this in Mountains Beyond Mountains?