Mountains Beyond Mountains

by Tracy Kidder

Fourth Tuesday Book Club

     If you believe there are no more heroes in the world, you must read this book.  It is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who came from a very unique family and who developed the feeling that his life should be dedicated to helping the poor of the world.

    Farmer’s father and mother were restless, unique people.  Paul Sr., a salesman and later a teacher, was nicknamed “the Warden” by his daughters because of his strictness—no makeup, no boyfriends, no staying out late.  The family’s lives were happy and filled with adventures.  After moving from Massachusetts to Alabama, the Warden bought a large bus at an auction to use on vacations.  The Farmers called it “the Blue Bird Inn” after the brand name of the bus.  It became their home, despite having no running water.

     The Warden later bought a fifty-foot-long empty hull, built a cabin and renovated the boat, hoping to do some commercial fishing.  It scared the kids because their father knew nothing about sailing, and he ran the boat aground several times.

     Paul flourished in school and became a strong reader.  At 11 years of age, he completed J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” in just a couple of days.  All of the children grew up to be successful and to live in real houses—one of the sisters became a commercial artist, another a manager of community relations, and the third a motivational speaker.  One brother became an electrician and the other a professional wrestler.  Paul had a very successful college and medical career, attending Duke University and Harvard Medical School.

    The remainder of the book describes Farmer’s experiences discovering Haiti and how he came to devote his life to the poor there and around the world.  Farmer faced many barriers—both natural and human ones, such as military juntas that threatened his life and work.  His efforts were intensive, and he was single minded, often wearing the same clothes for days.  Farmer said that the key was keeping your body clean and changing your underwear.  He managed to get monies to support his efforts and to build a hospital to help the poorest of Haiti’s poor.  The book describes how his efforts eventually expanded to Latin America and to Russian prisons.  They fought diseases from tuberculosis to AIDS.  The current worldwide effort that he leads is a tribute to the work of Farmer and those who helped build the Partners in Health Organization.

    The author, Tracy Kidder, has presented a wonderful biography of a person who is still working to save the world.  Dr. Farmer is a hero, who at this very moment is in his adopted homeland of Haiti helping the poor fight disease by providing them with health care.  Our club recommends this book especially for those who enjoy non-fiction and biographies.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Writing style not to my taste; Thought it would be boring but found it compelling; Dr. Farmer is an intimidating but inspiring, dedicated man; A very admirable but driven person; Wonderful portrayal of a fabulous, tenacious, intelligent, and caring physician; Great humanitarian; His early life was unreal- similar to but not as extreme as the book “Glass Castle”.

The Club Members rating this book:

Kirk Baker, Linda Bowman, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Sharon Shaffer, Bill Simmons, Lynn Simmons, Deb Stewart and Linda Troll

Club’s Average Rating:  3.67 of 5             Rating Range: 2.5 to 5

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