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Showing 1-10 of 21 reviews(2 star). Show all reviews
on December 5, 2003
Mountains Beyond Mountains was not what I had hoped. Kidder is one of my favorite authors, and his subject in this book obviously of great importance. His portarait of Dr. Farmer was convincing and powerful. I agree with all those positive reviews that Dr. Farmer is doing great work, and that the book presents a moral challenge that the reader must confront.
\The problem, for me, was in the book itself. I felt way too much time was spent focused on Dr. Farmer -- after a hundred pages I was ready to accept all the postivie things about him and move on. I thought Mr. Kidder was far too present in this book -- each time he referred to himself it jarred me from the flow of the story. Mr. Kidder seemed to be working too hard to present his own conclusions about Dr. Farmer's work; the author left little room for the reader to make judgments and draw conclusions. I had trouble shaking the image in my head of Mr. Kidder following Dr. Farmer around with a notebook writing down all the awe-inspriing things he saw.
I thought the book reached its absolute low point when Mr. Kidder was in Cuba worried if Dr. Farmer still liked him. All of the interjections like these made the book less than I would have liked. When three people in Haiti died, Mr. Kidder told us that it made Dr. Farmer feel bad, and instead of focusing on the three who died, seemed to be using the incident as a way of illustrating Dr. Farmer's compassion. I didn't need the author to do that for me.
I would have preferred much more about the actual people in Haiti, the prisoners in Russia, the poor in Peru. The story of John at the end of the work was exceptional; it had power of its own without being put in the shadow of Dr. Farmer and Mr. Kidder. This episode was what I had hoped the book would be.
Perhaps I am wrong to criticize the book because it isn't the way I wanted it to be. I am glad I learned about Dr. Farmer and his important work. I don't think, though, that I will be recommending this book to my friends.
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on November 28, 2014
Wish the author had spent more than just a few sentences to explain what motivates that man. This type of saintly selflessness is rare and unreachable for mere mortals like the rest of us. Only priests would put themselves into so much pain and misery. While this is commendable, I wish I would have closed this book understanding, well, why....
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on April 15, 2015
I hate to be the person who says "this book is too long" but this book is too long. The problem is that there is no major event or emotional transformation that justifies the length. At the beginning, Farmer is set in his (very admirable) beliefs regarding the lengths we should go to give the poor proper care, and in doing so, provide justice. At the end, he's exactly the same. At the beginning, Farmer has a hospital in Haiti; operating it is like pushing a boulder up hill. At the end, it's the same. The author is an observer who admires Farmer at the beginning, and is still the same at the end. At one point in an airport, the author injects some conflict between himself and Farmer, which I have to guess was at the recommendation of his editor. But even this nod toward narrative engagement is quickly lost. It makes no difference. This book is just snapshot after snapshot of Farmer fighting to give people care. Unfortunately, these snapshots don't build to anything. I'm glad to know about Farmer and truly admire what he's done, but this kind of repetition does not make for much of a book.
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VINE VOICEon March 3, 2012
Dr. Paul Farmer, one of the great humanitarians of our time--the Albert Schwitzer of our time--had to deal with a lot of bureaucracy in his work, political bureaucracy, organizational bureaucracy, and governmental bureauracy.

Now, Dr. Farmer, a man who goes about doing good and helping people in Haiti and other underdeveloped countries has to deal with bureaucracy again--a bureaucracy of words...from author Tracy Kidder.

What should have been, and is to some degree, a moving inspirational story of humanitarian vision, commitment and perseverance--the difference one man can make-- is pushed aside and almost overcome with words, words, words. Somewhere in all those words, Dr. Farmer's story almost gets lost.

As has been said of other writers, "He never had a thought that he didn't write down...." The same is true with Kidder and this work.

The Albert Schwitzer of our time didn't deserve to be weighed down with words, too many words, too many paragraphs and wandering stories that lead to nowhere.

Tracy Kidder's writing got in the way of Dr. Paul Farmer's story, and that's a shame, a real shame.

But, having said that, Paul Farmer is a man worth knowing, his story worth knowing, following and emulating. Just get ready for words, words, words--a bureaucracy of Tracy Kidder's words.
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on October 24, 2013
Did I enjoy this book: Not really. USA Today calls it a "masterpiece . . . an astonishing book . . . " I'm afraid I must have missed that part.

I agree Dr. Paul Farmer is an amazing character. He has obviously changed the way international health organizations treat infectious diseases in poor countries. His accomplishments are, to use a word from USA Today, "astonishing."

Reading about every detail of every location, patient, and day-to-day decisions, arguments, and small victories, however, is not "astonishing." For me, it was a bit boring.

A common complaint I hear from my book geek friends about non-fiction is that the book drags on for too long. The 100% unscientific, expert on absolutely nothing, general consensus seems to be that most non-fiction books would be more interesting if they were about 1/3 in length of what actually gets published. I believe that is the case with Tracy Kidder's account of "the quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world." Really? Cure the world? I guess I'll have to wait for the sequel.

Would I recommend it: No.

Will I read it again: I will not.

As reviewed by Belinda at Every Free Chance Book Reviews.
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on September 7, 2014
Excellent book. The condition of this used book is less than desirable.
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In Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder's nonfiction account of Dr. Paul Farmer's quest to save the world, Mountains Beyond Mountains, one could get the gist of the book after reading only the first handful of chapters. The first few chapters are brilliantly provocative and absorbing, but once one realizes that the book continues on this depressing account of one of the world's most impoverished nations, the book goes down-hill from there on out.

Kidder's renowned writing brilliantly depicts Paul Farmer's courage, witty sense of humor, steadfastness, unwavering dedication, intellect, and passion for medicine. Unfortunately for Farmer, however, it also subtly displays his hefty ego. Like all great physicians, Farmer is bound to have an ego; however, three hundred pages of self-serving propaganda wear thin after a little while. When arguing with his second-in-command one day, Jim Kim, Kim blurts out, "You never pick me up [at the airport]" (Kidder 247). Although Kidder downplays this seemingly small confrontation between the two great physicians, one must realize that one's honest thoughts and feelings are always exposed during a heated argument. While not reciprocating the favor of picking up one's friend at the airport may not seem like a big deal, it is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of issues in the Farmer-Kim relationship. It is easy to tell that Kim silently resents Farmer for not treating him as an equal in Partners in Health, and that could most likely be the reason for his acceptance of a job with the World Health Organization. Farmer's ego, as far as Kidder depicts it, allows him to be an extremely overshadowing, controlling perfectionist, who is unable to share success with friends and supporters. Despite his flaws, Farmer's work is obviously very commendable and admirable, but it becomes fairly difficult to identify with such a domineering and controlling main character.

Kidder best sums it up at the end of the first chapter when he comments how "the world is full of miserable places" (Kidder 8). I wholeheartedly agree with Kidder on this statement, which is why no matter how magnanimous or commendable Farmer's work in bringing healthcare to Haiti is, one can't help but play Devil's Advocate. Even if Dr. Farmer brings quality healthcare to Haiti, is that really going to correct poverty? It is certainly very refreshing to see someone like Farmer standing unwaveringly behind the Haitians; but as guilty as one might feel thinking such thoughts, one must wonder if Farmer's good deeds are being offset by other factors other than healthcare. Farmer admits that monthly financial stipends are prudent and necessary to achieve success in the treatment of infectious disease, yet the Haitian people still have no means of earning money. As far as the book says, Farmer never made an effort to bring his Haitian clinic and healthcare program under the control of the Haitian government and his good friend President Aristide. In order to progress as other emerging nations have, Haiti needs to accept healthcare as one of its own responsibilities, not Dr. Farmer's. Not only do Haitians need more readily accessible healthcare in order to increase their own standards of living, but they also need industry and a stable economy that will allow them to feed themselves and their families. Without such industry and increasing government interest in assuming control over the country's healthcare, Farmer's commendable and admirable efforts would be futile in creating a healthcare system with any potential for longevity. By the end of the book few things have actually changed for the better, save for more financial support and recognition of Partners in Health, which leads one to believe that Farmer is fighting a battle that is virtually impossible to win.

The fact that a great deal of the book occurs out-of-sequence can be a little befuddling, and the very repetitive nature of the individual stories makes one think that they are reading the same stories over, and over again. Although Kidder manages to make a few parts of the book quite absorbing, the chopped-up, intermittent fashion in which events occur seem much more like a Quentin Tarantino film than a nonfictional account of a great physician's quest to cure the world.
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on October 29, 2014
The story of Farmer is riveting, no question about it. However, his singlemindedness in attempting to prolong the lives of the people he serves overlooks one glaring fault in his quest.

He is increasing the number of sick people in Haiti with every patient he treats who reproduces, and by now there must be tens of thousands of NEW patients that he is responsible for 'creating' who also need treatment, and they too go on to reproduce. His penchant for traveling for days into the hinterlands to treat a single patient is never questioned. The question is: How many more patients could have benefitted from his treatment had he simply forgotten about the one in the deep forests and treated hundreds of others closer in to his base?

It is a scientific fact borne out by simple math that by perpetuating the weak, they become the majority, and eventually the entire population is wiped out.

There are some things in spite of our consciences that should be left to nature to deal with as hard hearted as that sounds.

There is an enormous gap in the reasoning of Farmer and other do-gooders whose focus is badly distorted.
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on February 18, 2013
I felt this book could have been written in half the pages and told the same story. It was interesting learning about World Health and the history of antibiotic resistent tuberculosis, but, again, the story could have been told with a lot less pages. Not a book that I couldn't put down.
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on August 7, 2011
I thought I was reading a book by someone that needs talkers' anonymous. It went on and on and on. I felt it was the same thing being told over a perioed of year. I did enjoy learning about the comparisons between Haiti and Cuba, but that came in the last 100 pages. The author's point of view helped to explain Dr. Farmer and his eccentric personality. Farmer is an exception man.
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