Mountains Beyond Mountains

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

I’ve been meaning to write a review about this book for some time so here goes.

Tracy Kidder is a good biographer. While reading there were times I got a bit annoyed with his style but always very fascinated with the person of Dr. Paul Farmer. The book brought you into an “inner-circle” of sorts with the person behind mass health aid efforts in Haiti, Peru, Africa, and Russia. Kidder seemed to be a bit of a personal friend of Farmer so the book took on the feel of a friend’s journey with Farmer through many expeditions. I left the book very enthralled with Dr. Farmer and not so much with Kidder and his writing – so after a bit of thinking, I guess Kidder did his job very well, he didn’t draw attention to himself but rather to the subject of his work.

That being said, a lot of times the book felt a bit redundant. Kidder seemed to tell the same story with a different setting. While the actual story may have been very similar through all of Farmer’s health services, I don’t think as a writer Kidder had to delve so deeply into each. Simultaneous with being enthralled and blown away with Farmer’s ability to meet health needs in such desolate places, I was bored and bogged down by Kidder’s consistently bland hashing out of the details. There were moments of extreme excitement and monotony alike which were very well written, however they seemed to be disjointed by consistent periods of laborious drawn-out-for-the-sake-of-it reading.

The parts that are written well really are. As a reader you get pulled into the life of Farmer and the many sticky situations he finds himself in, you really are taken aback by just how someone can go to medical school in Harvard and simultaneously be starting a hospital in Haiti, and how he can continue to fly all over the world on little to no sleep and food and still accomplish meeting the health needs of his patients.

Farmer’s passion and desire to meet the needs he witnesses was what really got to me. Kidder does a very good job of getting at the heart of Farmer’s feelings. I’m reading though some of Farmer’s own works at the moment, and find myself very respectful of someone so brilliant doing such great things in the world. Biographies are hard, and there are going to be many times of monotonous details, Kidder does a very decent job. I would emphatically recommend this book to anyone thinking about or already involved in medicine or social justice – if nothing but a starter to Farmer’s own works in which you can get a more vivid and clear insight into the care and passion of Dr. Paul Farmer.

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~ by veniatregnum on September 5, 2008.

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