Mountains Beyond Mountains Review
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Few people have helped as many people as dramatically, pugnaciously, and successfully as Dr. Paul Farmer. Tracy Kidder's latest book tracks Farmer on his crusade to improve health care to the world's most poverty-stricken populations, one patient at a time.

What amazes are the lengths to which Farmer will go to treat his patients. He speaks Creole, Spanish and French. He's logged more than two million miles in flight time, traveling to Haiti, Boston and Russia. He donates the bulk of his salary. Once when he reached the limit on his credit card, his bookkeeper told him that he was the "hardest-workin' broke man I know." And that's no exaggeration, because in order to treat his Haitian patients, he's got to share their circumstances, travel on their roads, and address their most basic needs, such as helping them get food and water and better shelter. And then get them medicine.

  
 
For his patients, he has endless reserves of patience and generosity. Drug companies, governments, and other bureaucracies see a different side of him. He plays the part of Robin Hood to their Sheriff of Nottingham. If he sees a patient suffering, he does everything in his power to save them; if he sees abundant resources, then he does everything in his power to get them where they are most needed. A patient's ability to pay, or the local government's ability to govern and provide basic services do not deter him. He sees only the child in front of him, such as the one who cries, "It hurts, I'm hungry," when he gives her a spinal tap. "Only in Haiti would a child cry out that she's hungry during a spinal tap," he says.

Farmer is bull-headed, charismatic, arrogant, determined, but especially brilliant, both clinically and politically. He's also quite amusing and self-deprecating, which makes reading this 300-page story as enjoyable as it is uplifting. Farmer has transformed many lives and saved many more. Through Kidder's book, perhaps even more will be transformed, as we readers learn that saving lives in these circumstances isn't impossible after all.

Read this book, and then pass it around. This is a story worth sharing.

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