Book Review: "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracey Kidder

Paul Farmer -- The very picture of sainthood

MBM is the story of Paul Farmer, legendary lecturer and epidemiologist, and a devoted and perceptive doctor who works among the poorest of the poor in Haiti and elsewhere. Farmer is one of those annoying people who eschews protocol and social niceties in order to keep his patients alive. He will “borrow” medicines from wealthy hospitals for use in his clinic. He will literally walk miles up steep mountains to make sure that his TB patients are taking all his medicines. This is not out of a desire to be nice, but because he knows that a missed dose can mean that a treatable disease will become one imperious to medicine and cut a wider swath of death.

Farmer is a proponent of Archbishop’s Oscar Romero’s brand of liberation theology which sees Christ in the suffering of the poor and works for better lives for them. While Farmer’s actions are based in this theological insight, they are practiced in the shacks of Haiti, the favelas of Peru, the streets of Boston and the prisons of Moscow—anywhere that drug-resistant forms of TB and other diseases have a stranglehold on communities.

Paul Farmer is a saint – the kind of eccentric, dedicated lunatic who brings God’s healing and compassion to the poor. He is no respecter of men, but a person whose theory comes from the streets, not from textbooks.

I would steer you toward the book or an unabridged CD, if there is one. The abridged version skimps on some of the most colorful stories and leaves out much of Farmer’s theological grounding, which is a vital layer of his personality.