Mountains Beyond Mountains

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 achievements. Kidder spends years studying Farmer, observing the way he practices medicine and trying to understand how it’s possible for a human being to be so selfless. Kidder grapples with Farmer’s lofty idealism, questioning if America’s foreign policy is as bad as Farmer claims, and whether it is a moral thing for a father to devote oneself so extensively to helping the poor at the cost of neglecting his family. At times, Kidder wonders if Farmer might not be devoting himself to charity as a kind of “alibi”—humanitarian work allows Farmer to claim that everything he does is right, and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong. In the end, however, Kidder comes to see Farmer as a talented, brilliant, and deeply moral man, who’s motivated by a sincere desire to help other people.

Tracy Kidder Quotes in Mountains Beyond Mountains

The Mountains Beyond Mountains quotes below are all either spoken by Tracy Kidder or refer to Tracy Kidder. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Mountains Beyond Mountains published in 2009.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them or, when you do, to send money.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

As Farmer was leaving the shelter, he heard Joe say to another resident, just loudly enough to make Farmer wonder if Joe meant for him to overhear, “That guy’s a fuckin’ saint.”

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Joe (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

He made about $125,000 a year from Harvard and the Brigham, but he never saw his paychecks or the honoraria or royalties, both fairly small sums, that he received for his lectures and writings. The bookkeeper at PIH headquarters cashed the checks, paid his bills—and his mother’s mortgage—and put whatever was left in the treasury. One day in 1999, Farmer tried to use his credit card and was told he’d reached his limit.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

And then of course it dawned on him that he knew plenty of Americans—he was one himself—who held apparently contradictory beliefs, such as faith in both medicine and prayer. He felt, he said, as though he hung in the air before his patient, “suspended by her sympathy and bemusement.”

Related Characters: Doctor Paul Farmer (speaker), Tracy Kidder (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

By then Farmer had quit his fraternity. He wrote them that he couldn’t belong to an all-white organization. (“I received quite a frosty reply,” he would say, in a tone of voice that implied this still surprised him.) He’d come to admire his father’s distaste for putting on airs.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

But independence had been followed by nearly two hundred years of misrule, aided and abetted by foreign powers, especially France and the United States. (From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. Marines had occupied and run the country.) To Farmer, Haiti’s history seemed, indeed, like The Lord of the Rings, an ongoing story of a great and terrible struggle between the rich and the poor, between good and evil.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

He was already attracted to liberation theology. “A powerful rebuke to the hiding away of poverty,” he called it. “A rebuke that transcends scholarly analysis.” In Haiti, the essence of the doctrine came alive for him. Almost all the peasants he was meeting shared a belief that seemed like a distillation of liberation theology: “Everybody else hates us,” they’d tell him, “but God loves the poor more. And our cause is just.”

Related Characters: Doctor Paul Farmer (speaker), Tracy Kidder (speaker)
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

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A doctor who knew nothing about local beliefs might end up at war with Voodoo priests, but a doctor-anthropologist who understood those beliefs could find ways to make Voodoo houngans his allies. A doctor who didn’t understand local culture would probably mistake many patients’ complaints for bizarre superstitions.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker)
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

On the way back they laughed about the incident, and yet of all the times she’d eaten things that she could hardly bear to look at, this one occasion when she failed the test stood out for her.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

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One time when they were together in Boston, White said, “You know, Paul, sometimes I’d like to chuck it all and work as a missionary with you in Haiti.” Farmer thought for a while, then said, “In your particular case, that would be a sin.”

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Tom White (speaker)
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

Some people said that medicine addresses only the symptoms of poverty. This, they agreed, was true, and they’d make “common cause” with anyone sincerely trying to change the “political economies” of countries like Haiti. But it didn’t follow, as some self-styled radicals said, that good works without revolution only prolonged the status quo, that the only thing projects like Cange really accomplish is the creation of “dependency.”

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

He’d write about how the Centers for Disease Control, a federal U.S. agency, had gone so far as to identify Haitians as a “risk group,” along with several other groups whose names began with h—homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and heroin users—and about the incalculable harm all this had done to Haiti’s fragile economy and to Haitians wherever they lived. In his thesis, he’d marshal a host of epidemiological data to show that AIDS had almost certainly come from North America to Haiti.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

In early 1994, just before The Uses of Haiti came out, Farmer wrote an editorial for The Miami Herald. The gist of it was: “Should the U.S. military intervene in Haiti? We already have. Now we should do so in a new way, to restore democracy.”

Related Characters: Doctor Paul Farmer (speaker), Tracy Kidder (speaker)
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 15 Quotes

The motion of his mind toward root causes had always excited him. He loved the challenge of diagnosis and all its accoutrements—the stains on the microscopic slides, the beautiful morphologies of the creatures under the lens. But what he called “the eureka moment” had a bad aftertaste this time. Later he would tell me, “God, I’d hate to ever feel triumphant about something so rotten.”

Related Characters: Doctor Paul Farmer (speaker), Tracy Kidder (speaker)
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

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Farmer and Kim began collecting a number of official WHO statements. Some put the case more plainly: “In developing countries, people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis usually die, because effective treatment is often impossible in poor countries.” For Farmer […] there was a larger principle involved. A TB epidemic, laced with MDR, had visited New York City in the late 1980s; it had been centered in prisons, homeless shelters, and public hospitals. When all the costs were totaled, various American agencies had spent about a billion dollars stanching the outbreak. Meanwhile, here in Peru, where the government made debt payments of more than a billion dollars every year to American banks and international lending institutions, experts in international TB control had deemed MDR too expensive to treat.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 20 Quotes

Farmer was forty now, and he had the credentials to operate in the way Hiatt envisioned, on a purely executive level. In academic circles his reputation had grown. He was about to become a tenured Harvard professor. He was near the head of the line for the big prizes in medical anthropology; some of his peers were now saying that he’d “redefined” the field.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer, Howard Hiatt
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 21 Quotes

He distrusted all ideologies, including his own, at least a little. “It’s an ology, after all,” he had written to me about liberation theology. “And all ologies fail us at some point. At a point, I suspect, not very far from where the Haitian poor live out their dangerous lives.” Where might it fail? He told me, “If one pushes this ology to its logical conclusion, then God is to be found in the struggle against injustice.

Related Characters: Doctor Paul Farmer (speaker), Tracy Kidder (speaker)
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

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It still seemed to me that he took a stance all too conveniently impregnable. He embodied a preferential option for the poor. Therefore, any criticism of him amounted to an assault on the already downtrodden people he served. But I knew by now he wasn’t simply posing. I felt something about him that I’d later frame to myself this way: He said patients came first, prisoners second, and students third, but this didn’t leave out much of humanity. Every sick person seemed to be a potential patient of Farmer’s and every healthy person a potential student. In his mind, he was fighting all poverty all the time, an endeavor full of difficulties and inevitable failures.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 25 Quotes

The next time I was in Cange, I asked Zanmi Lasante’s chief handyman, Ti Jean, what the people in the region were saying about the case. He told me that everyone talked about it. “And you know what they say? They say, ‘Look how much they care about us.’”

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Ti Jean (speaker)
Related Symbols: John’s Treatment
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

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Tracy Kidder Character Timeline in Mountains Beyond Mountains

The timeline below shows where the character Tracy Kidder appears in Mountains Beyond Mountains. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Tracy Kidder begins his book by noting that he first met Dr. Paul Edward Farmer in 1994,... (full context)
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In 1994, Kidder meets Captain Carroll, the leader of the American troops in Haiti. Carroll is a sincere,... (full context)
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...tells the soldiers that a doctor named Paul Farmer has come to see Captain Carroll. Kidder notices immediately that Farmer is short, delicate, and skinny. Farmer asks Carroll if his military... (full context)
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A few weeks later, Kidder meets Farmer on board a flight to Miami. On the flight, Farmer gets to talking... (full context)
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A few weeks later, Kidder invites Farmer to dinner in Boston. Above all, Kidder is struck by Farmer’s easy-going attitude—he... (full context)
Chapter 2
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In Boston, Kidder explains, the medical neighborhoods are eerily quiet. There’s Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the... (full context)
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...tells him he needs to gain some weight if he’s going to survive much longer. Kidder (who seems to be standing in the room with Joe and Farmer) notes that Farmer... (full context)
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...Farmer walks out of the shelter, Joe says, “That guy’s a fuckin’ saint.” Farmer tells Kidder that he’d love to be a saint, but that he’ll have to work much harder... (full context)
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In early 2000, Farmer leaves Brigham and travels back to Haiti. He emails Kidder, telling him to come back to Haiti to see his work first-hand. (full context)
Chapter 3
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In 2000, Kidder is in Haiti, having been invited there by Farmer. He’s driven through Haiti along the... (full context)
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Kidder follows Farmer through a typical day. Farmer wakes early, dressing in jeans and a t-shirt.... (full context)
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Kidder observes life in Cange, the nearest city to Zanmi Lasante, during his first week. There... (full context)
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Kidder notes that the average hospital in Massachusetts serves about 175,000 people a year. Although Farmer’s... (full context)
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Kidder gives more information about Farmer. He’s married to a Haitian woman named Didi Bertrand. They... (full context)
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...He usually has a couple dozen patients waiting to see him. On the first day Kidder observes him, Farmer meets with an elderly woman with tuberculosis of the spine. She kisses... (full context)
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Kidder takes a moment to explain the Haitian attitude toward magic. Many Haitians believe in sorcery—indeed,... (full context)
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Kidder describes how late one night Farmer rushes to the Zanmi Lasante facilities, where a young... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Kidder senses that Farmer is treating him like a student—someone to be trained in the importance... (full context)
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Kidder notes a common proverb in Haiti, “Beyond mountains there are mountains.” This proverb applies to... (full context)
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Farmer and Kidder walk out to Morne Michel. Kidder notes that Farmer has spent a lot of time... (full context)
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As they walk through Morne Michel, Farmer tells Kidder about the misery that Haitians endure. They don’t have enough food to feed their families,... (full context)
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On their walk back to the hospital, Kidder and Farmer pass by a cockfighting pit. As Farmer walks past, Haitians produce chairs for... (full context)
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During their walk back, Kidder and Farmer stand on the top of a hill, looking down at Haiti. Kidder sees... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Kidder researches Farmer’s life. He was born in Massachusetts in 1959. His mother was a farmer’s... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Kidder interviews Farmer’s friends from college. They recall that Farmer was warm, charismatic, and extremely clever.... (full context)
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Kidder gives some information about Haitian history. In 1791, there was a massive slave revolt in... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Kidder explains that Farmer met Ophelia Dahl in 1983, when they were both working at Eye... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Kidder loops back to discuss Farmer’s training in medicine. In 1984, the 24-year-old Farmer enrolled at... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...enter the country without a problem. He resumes his medical practice, helping a young man (Kidder names him Chouchou Louis to hide his identity) who’s been savagely beaten by the army.... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...continues pointing his gun at Farmer for a few moments longer, than leaves the hospital. Kidder notes that Farmer was absolutely right: because of his superior medical knowledge, he was never... (full context)
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...where he writes most of a book called The Uses of Haiti. In this book—which Kidder considers the best of his works—Farmer describes the history of American foreign policy in Haiti.... (full context)
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...projects in other parts of North America (a public housing program in Mexico, for instance). Kidder notes that PIH is on the verge of changing altogether, and becoming an international player... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Kidder begins by describing an epidemiological map. A standard map of this kind shows the regions... (full context)
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...existence for decades, and yet much of the third world doesn’t have access to it, Kidder writes. As a result, pharmaceutical companies don’t invest money in researching a TB vaccine, and... (full context)
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...bacilli. MDR-TB (i.e., multidrug resistant tuberculosis) was common in Haiti in the 90s. In 1995, Kidder says, MDR-TB claimed the life of one of Farmer’s close friends, who was living in... (full context)
Chapter 14
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While studying at medical school, Kidder explains, Farmer visited a church run by the priest Jack Roussin, or Father Jack. The... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Kidder comes to Carabayllo with Farmer. He’s struck by the traffic congestion in the area, and... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...“softened” its attitude to Farmer’s program, partly because of the influence of Farmer’s American connections. Kidder visits Farmer while he’s reunited with a young boy named Christian, whom Farmer treated for... (full context)
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Kidder backs up to explain Farmer’s experience treating Christian. Two years ago, Christian was severely ill... (full context)
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On the day that Kidder sees Farmer reunite with Christian, Farmer proceeds with his other cases. He examines a young... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Kidder stops to give some background information about Farmer’s partner, Jim Kim. Kim was born in... (full context)
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Kidder goes over the basics of the WHO. The World Health Organization is a coordinating site... (full context)
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Kidder considers what Jim Kim and Farmer have accomplished in Peru. The medical world thinks in... (full context)
Chapter 20
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As the chapter begins, Howard Hiatt is explaining to Kidder that Farmer and Jim Kim have “mobilized the world to accept drug-resistance TB as a... (full context)
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...health. And yet Farmer continues to spend long hours working one-on-one with patients in Haiti. Kidder notices that Farmer receives about 75 emails a day: He’s bombarded with requests for advice... (full context)
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To get a sense for how busy Farmer has become, Kidder “tags along” with him for a month in early 2000. He travels to Cange, where... (full context)
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Back in Haiti, Kidder looks at the decrepit roads in Cange. Haitians built the roads under the supervision of... (full context)
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The next day, Farmer and Kidder fly to Miami. At the Miami airport, Farmer “catches up” with his friends—he’s spent so... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Kidder and Farmer land in Havana, and Farmer ecstatically notes the beautiful trees and green fields.... (full context)
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...about the history of inequality and imperialism as reflected in national health policy. He tells Kidder that many of the measures being used to fight AIDS in North America—such as “AIDS... (full context)
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The next day, Farmer and Kidder go on a tour of a Cuban sanatorium designed for AIDs patients. Farmer notes that... (full context)
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Kidder notes that Farmer travels more than anyone he’s ever met, and yet he’s never seen... (full context)
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As they’re preparing to leave Cuba, Kidder suggests to Farmer that the Cubans must love Farmer for his denunciations of U.S. foreign... (full context)
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Farmer and Kidder’s next trip is to Russia, by way of Miami and Paris. Kidder considers the small... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Before flying to Russia, Farmer and Kidder visit Didi, who’s studying the history of colonialism. As they’re taking a taxi from the... (full context)
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...that the flight is tomorrow morning. Didi seems upset, and Farmer looks shocked and speechless. Kidder notes that he’ll always remember the look on Farmer’s face: it’s the only time he’s... (full context)
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Kidder has asked Farmer about Catherine before. Shortly after Catherine’s birth, a woman gave birth to... (full context)
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...many of Farmer’s colleagues and PIH donors. The day after the birthday party, Farmer and Kidder move on to the airport and wait for a plane to Russia. On the plane,... (full context)
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At Charles de Gaulle Airport, Kidder points out that the city seems like another world from Haiti. Farmer points out that... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...medical research in the country. On the flight from Paris to Russia, Farmer explains to Kidder that this project has been going on for some 2 years. George Soros, the businessman... (full context)
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Kidder and Farmer arrive in Russia. Although they drive by Russia’s beautiful towers and churches, they... (full context)
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Farmer and Kidder dine with the chief of Russian doctors, along with some of the chief’s colleagues. The... (full context)
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Kidder notes that Farmer and Jim Kim have demonstrated that MDR can be treated cost-effectively, meaning... (full context)
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...day of the World Bank conference, Farmer dresses in a surprisingly stylish suit, explaining to Kidder that politics is all about the perception of confidence and power. At the conference, the... (full context)
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Kidder watches Farmer and Goldfarb playfully arguing about prison populations. Farmer claims that the vast majority... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...that there’s “real work” to be done in Moscow. Kim, Farmer, and Ophelia argue, and Kidder is amazed—he can’t remember seeing Farmer lose his temper before. Later, Ophelia tells Kim that... (full context)
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A few weeks after his argument with Farmer, Jim Kim flies to Siberia, and Kidder goes with him. They travel into the town of Tomsk, which has had a severe... (full context)
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...examining MDR patients, and attends another banquet in the evening. The next day, he and Kidder fly to Paris. On the plane, Farmer tells Kidder that he’s been arguing with Tom... (full context)
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Farmer travels more than ever, Kidder notes, and for a while Kidder communicates with him mostly by email. Farmer travels to... (full context)
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Kidder notes that Farmer has already made the acquaintance of the influential economist Jeffrey Sachs, who... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Farmer has always found the flight from Haiti to Boston strange, Kidder reports. When he arrives in Boston he sees well-dressed people complaining about the most superficial... (full context)
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...prepares to fly John out to Mass General for a full treatment for his cancer. Kidder sees John lying in bed, and is shocked by his appearance—his limbs are terrifyingly thin... (full context)
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...bumpy. After hours of driving, during which the car stops several times, John, Serena, and Kidder make it to the airport. (full context)
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Kidder reports that John survives his medevac flight to Boston, helped by his suction device the... (full context)
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Kidder is unsure how he feels about John’s treatment. In a sense, he thinks of it... (full context)
Chapter 26
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It is December, two months after John’s transportation to Boston. Kidder is in Boston, preparing to travel to Cange with Farmer for one of the last... (full context)
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Kidder mentions a boy named Alcante, who came to Zanmi Lasante with a sever case of... (full context)
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Kidder describes the long walk that he and Farmer make to Casse, accompanied by Ti Jean.... (full context)
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After leaving the house, Kidder tries to ask Farmer a question he’s been formulating for a while—ever since John’s death.... (full context)
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Farmer discusses John’s death with Kidder. It’s certainly possible to question Serena’s decision to move John to Mass General, spending almost... (full context)
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Kidder and Farmer continue walking through Casse. After many hours, they arrive at Alcante’s home. Alcante... (full context)
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Kidder remembers a wealthy donor who abruptly stopped donating to Farmer and PIH, on the basis... (full context)
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Farmer and Kidder return to Zanmi Lasante. There, Ti Jean has been supervising patient care in Farmer’s absence.... (full context)