The Reading Committee chose Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, for the 2006 Honors Welcome Week First Year Reading Project.
About the Book
Tracy Kidder is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the author of the bestsellers The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, Home Town, and My Detachment. He has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the “master of the non-fiction narrative.” This powerful and inspiring new book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.
At the center of Mountains Beyond Mountains stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer – brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti – blasts through convention to get results.
Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity” – a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.
“Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with the force of a gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr says, “[Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”
About the Author
Tracy Kidder was born in New York City in 1945. Kidder attended Harvard College where he earned an AB in 1967. From 1967 until 1969, he served as first lieutenant in Vietnam and was awarded a bronze star.
After his tour of duty, Kidder obtained an MFA from the University of Iowa, where he participated in the Writers’ Workshop, a program known for the literary luster of both its staff and alumni. At the workshop, Kidder met Atlantic Monthlycontributing editor Dan Wakefield, who helped him get his first assignment for the magazine in 1973, beginning a long-term association with the publication. Kidder’s articles in The Atlantichave covered a broad range of topics, ranging from railroads, to energy, architecture, the environment, and more.
In 1994, Kidder met Dr. Paul Farmer — subject of his book,Mountains Beyond Mountains — when Kidder was in Haiti to report on American soldiers working to reinstate Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s democratically elected government. Kidder and Farmer didn’t see one another again until 1999 when Kidder asked to meet with Farmer to begin work on “The Good Doctor,” a profile of Farmer that was published in The New Yorker in July 2000. Kidder’s research for The New Yorker profile proved to be a starting point for Mountains Beyond Mountains, published in September 2003 by Random House.
Kidder’s writing has been prolific and outstanding. The Soul of a New Machine — a book celebrated for its insight into the world of corporate, high-technology America — earned him a Pulitzer and a National Book Award in 1982. Other bestselling works include House (1985), Among Schoolchildren (1989), Old Friends(1993), and Home Town (1999), and My Detachment (2005). Among Schoolchildren, a narrative of one year in the life of a fifth-grade class and its teacher, won Kidder the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1989.
Kidder lives with his wife and family in western Massachusetts and Maine.