An absolutely fascinating book about an absolutely fascinating man. Mountains Beyond Mountains, written by intrepid reporter Tracy Kidder, follows the life and good deeds of Dr. Paul Farmer. Farmer, by all accounts incredibly intelligent, ambitious and kind, splits his time between treating the poor in Haiti, treating the TB-ridden in Russia and Peru and educating new students in Boston. In his “free time”, he creates charities and foundations to fund these projects, and spends a good chunk of his life on airplanes.
“And I can imagine Farmer saying he doesn’t care if no one else is willing to follow their example. He’s still going to make these hikes, he’d insist, because if you say that seven hours is too long to walk for two families of patients, you’re saying that their lives matter less than some others’, and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
This is a book about one of the people who should stress you out because you will never be as good as them, as kind and helpful and intelligent and caring. Farmer is all of those things and more, but I came away feeling inspired by his story, rather than guilty about my lack of contribution. Farmer looked at a poor community in Haiti, devised solutions to help them not only have access to better things, but to make better things for themselves. He traveled to each house, creating a census of the community’s needs.
One point the book makes is that when Farmer is gone, it will be hard to replicate his results with anyone else. Although he has hundreds in his employ, it will be hard to find someone else with his unending passion to help the poor. It’s a wonderful story and a great lesson on perspectives. And Kidder writes it well: one of the least-dry nonfictions I’ve ever read (not quite a Mary Roach, but close).