Have you heard of Dr. Paul Farmer? I know that until my sister recommended this book to me, I hadn’t. I also didn’t really know much about Haiti except what I’d seen on the news after the earthquake. If you want to learn about Paul Farmer, learning about the plight of Haiti is just part of the journey, because this doctor has taken upon himself the effort to secure medical care in this country where just finding one meal a day is a chore. Farmer’s creed is that one life is just not worth more than another life — that a person in the hills of Haiti with tuberculosis deserves care and treatment just as much as a senator or CEO.
Our author, Tracy Kidder, travels with Farmer for years, it seems, trying to figure him out. He follows him to Haiti, Peru, Russia and France as Dr. Paul fights not only for patients in Haiti but also for ways to stanch the treatable epidemics that plague the poor around the world. What is astonishing is not only Farmer’s absolute dedication to this cause, but also the concrete and meaningful successes he has along the way. The man absolutely influences global health policies. But he also takes the time to climb the mountains of Haiti to check on the family of one small boy. He thinks big and small at the same time — wanting the world to change but willing to stop all of that to make a change in the life of one single person.
Kidder as an author is a participant in the story — sometimes cynical, forcing Farmer to justify his choices. I was a bit annoyed by that sometimes, but I always appreciated that Farmer just will not give up on people who cannot advocate for themselves. It is a noble and admirable thing that makes you take stock of how amazingly comfortable your life is. Despite the political stuff sometimes boring me a bit, I came away in awe of what one man with a vision can do.
Rated: High for language — lots of “f-bombs” and other more moderate language.