Amazon Best of the Month, October 2008
: Judging by his biography, James Orbinski is superhuman. As a med student in the late '80s, he spent a year researching pediatric AIDS in Rwanda, which opened his eyes to the human consequences of political failure. After cofounding the Canadian chapter of Doctors Without Borders, Orbinski embarked on relief missions to the world's most chaotic pockets, including war-torn Somalia and the refugee camps of Afghanistan. When reports of genocide filtered out of Rwanda, Orbinski led a small team that--with scant supplies--tended to the sick and wounded in Kigali. Within 14 weeks, 800,000 people were killed as the international community sat idly by, and Orbinski experienced a profound personal crisis. He emerged with a renewed commitment to his role as doctor, not only as a healer but as a voice for those who have been disastrously failed by governments. In An Imperfect Offering
, he bears witness to surreal levels of suffering, and his actions seem impossibly heroic. But descriptions of his patients' courage and his own moral challenges make this story an exploration of what it means to be human, and what our responsibilities are to each other. Through his story, the suffering of millions is no longer unimaginable, and indifference is not an option. --Mari Malcolm
From Publishers Weekly
In this captivating look at humanitarian intervention in the 20th century, Orbinski, former head of the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), uses stories from his decades of service with the group to examine how to be in relation with the suffering of others. The author describes his time on the front lines of suffering in Russia, Somalia and Afghanistan. When Orbinski recounts his second term in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, the book reaches an emotional peak: it was his undoing, and struggling with the horror he has seen, he drifts into a netherworld of confusion, fighting to regain his footing as a man, as a doctor and as a putative humanitarian. His ensuing reflections on humanitarianism are as riveting as his personal thoughts, which include diary entries, recollections and correspondence with friends in the humanitarian and diplomatic corps. The book manages to be both personal enough to construe the human toll of political and social disasters without falling into the trap of maudlin, patronizing depictions of human suffering. Orbinski, who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for Médecins Sans Frontières in 1999 does credit to his organization and his humanitarian credo. (Oct.)
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