Mountains Beyond Mountains

 

by Tracy Kidder (Random House)

 

Tracy Kidder is one of those highly intelligent writers who can take on widely diverse fields. I first read his The Soul of a New Machine, an early book about computers that won him the Pulitzer Prize. Then he addressed school issues in Among Schoolchildren, another excellent book. In Mountains Beyond Mountains he writes about Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician who is having an extremely important influence on world health. In fact, part of Kidder's subtitle, A Man Who Would Cure the World, accurately describes his subject, who seems able to organize and direct resources to attack seemingly unsolvable medical problems. First we follow Kidder to Haiti where Farmer is curing the most severe forms of tuberculosis, the kind that most of the expensive drugs cannot conquer. Then we head to Peru where his teams address similar problems. And finally we move on to Russia where the prisons serve as breeding grounds for the toughest combinations of AIDS and TB. Happily, Farmer enjoys top-notch credentials. He's a very young Harvard professor; he was awarded one of the MacArthur "genius" grants; and his service to individual patients - often requiring long walks into the Haitian or Cuban countryside or rounds in Boston's finest hospitals - give him the kind of first-hand experience that provide him a platform from which to urge us to meet our responsibilities. You'll be exhausted just by reading about all he does, but you'll find the experience well worth your time.-- Gerry Rising