Doctor Paul Farmer
The protagonist of Mountains Beyond Mountains, Paul Farmer is a brilliant doctor and anthropologist. Moreover, he’s a devoted humanitarian, to the point where he can’t imagine a life for himself that doesn’t involve taking… read analysis of Doctor Paul Farmer
The author and narrator of Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder is also an important character in the book: he’s a more or less ordinary man, against whom we “measure” Paul Farmer’s vast humanitarian… read analysis of Tracy Kidder
An intelligent young British woman who falls in love with Paul Farmer when she’s doing charity work in Haiti. Ophelia Dahl comes from markedly different circumstances than Farmer—she’s the daughter of the famous children’s author… read analysis of Ophelia Dahl
A young Haitian boy whose rare facial cancer necessitates his being flown out to Boston for extensive treatments. John’s long, agonizing journey from Haiti to Boston is the dramatic climax of the book, because… read analysis of John
Paul Farmer’s wife, a Haitian woman who studies anthropology in Paris. Although Didi has enormous respect for her husband and his charity work around the world, she seems to resent the fact that he barely has time to visit her and their daughter, Catherine.
Renowned 19th century German doctor who proposed the cellular theory of biology, and designed a series of highly effective sanitation systems that made Germany one of the cleanest countries in the world.
A nun who does charity work in Haiti, inspiring the young Paul Farmer.
Jean-Claude Duvalier / Baby Doc
The ruthless dictator of Haiti during the 1980s.
A Haitian priest who mentors Paul Farmer early on in Farmer’s career, and sends him to establish a clinic in the impoverished town of Cange. Lafontant is a calm leader, and tirelessly devoted to helping his neighbors—two qualities that he passes onto Farmer.
A wealthy businessman who gives large sums of money to Paul Farmer’s charity, Partners in Health.
A former college roommate of Paul Farmer’s. Farmer appoints him to the board of advisers for Partners in Health.
A Haitian priest and politician who rises to become the president of Haiti in the early 90s, but is almost immediately deposed by a military coup.
A young man who’s savagely beaten by the Haitian army for supporting Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Jack Roussin / Father Jack
A priest and friend of Paul Farmer, whose sudden death from tuberculosis in Lima, Peru inspires Farmer to research new treatments for the disease.
An expert on tuberculosis who gives Paul Farmer advice on how to treat the disease in South America.
A talented doctor who works with Paul Farmer to treat tuberculosis.
A young Peruvian man who dies of tuberculosis after Paul Farmer is forced to suspend treatments.
Paul Farmer and Didi Bertrand’s young daughter.
An influential doctor who praises Paul Farmer for his treatment of tuberculosis in South America.
A young, ambitious doctor who works with Paul Farmer in Russia to improve prison conditions. Goldfarb is an outspoken, slightly obnoxious man, and more prone than Farmer is to taking a political stance that could endanger his humanitarian work.
A Cuban friend of Paul Farmer.
Dr. José Miyar Barruecos
The president of Cuba’s medical school, who agrees to accept Haitian students after meeting with Paul Farmer.
The doctor usually credited with discovering the AIDS virus.
A powerful oligarch whose association with Alex Goldfarb leads to a restructuring of leadership in the World Bank’s medical projects in Russia.
Paul Farmer’s assistant, who accompanies John from Haiti to Boston during the final days of his life.
Dr. Alan Ezekowitz
A talented pediatric specialist who operates on John in Boston.
Paul Farmer’s “chief of staff” beginning in the 2000s, Ti Jean is a talented assistant and organizer for Farmer, and shares his boss’s respect for hard work and humanitarian commitment.
A young Haitian boy who suffers from scrofula, and is treated by Paul Farmer.
The leader of the American troops in Haiti in the mid-90s.
A wealthy businessman and philanthropist who partners with Paul Farmer to treat tuberculosis outbreaks in Russia.
A homeless, HIV-positive man who calls Paul Farmer a “saint.”
An influential Harvard Medical School professor who partners with Paul Farmer.
A young Peruvian boy who Paul Farmer treats for tuberculosis.
Archbishop Oscar Romero
A priest from El Salvador whose brutal murder in 1980 inspired the young Paul Farmer to politicize his medical education.