Mountains Beyond Mountains

By Tracy Kidder


Mountains Beyond Mountains comes from a Hatian proverb which is a metaphor for life's challenges. Once you have reached the top of one mountain, you see that there are an endless amount of mountains, or challenges that there are to overcome. Dr. Paul Farmer's mountain is the struggle to provide medical help to the poor and less fortunate of the world. The book chronicals Farmer's travels across the globe to help people. He focuses his attention on the world's most struggling people: the prison population in Russia, the poor in Lima, Peru, and the rural poor of Haiti.
Haitian Folk Song "Wongolo" - For Haiti

Character Analysis

Mountains Beyond Mountains is a non-fiction book that is about the life of Paul Farmer. Paul Farmer is a doctor who believes that he was born to help people and that it is his duty to help the less fortunate of the world. He also believes he can win the "long defeat" which is his way of saying he can overcome the impossible odds of helping everyone in need. He is angry at the world for neglecting the less fortunate, but he knows that he has no time time for anger. Tracy Kidder is the author of this book, but he is also one of it's main characters. He is a bit of a realist and pessimist in the beginning because he cannot understand why Farmer continues his work in almost certain defeat. Although at the end he realizes that winning the battle isn't as important as trying. I believe that Farmer's determination to keep helping people is inspiring to both the reader, and to Kidder. Jim Yong Kim is a Korean-American doctor who fell in love with the work that Paul Farmer was doing, and devotes much of his life working among and caring for the poor.


One theme of the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, is the dedication to do what is right even when it proves difficult. The book makes a strong argument regarding the distribution of wealth and emphasizes that even just a small group of people who are committed to change, can make a difference. Even if only one person's life is changed for the better, it was a worthy cause. Kidder realizes that Paul Farmer has spent his entire life trying to win the "long defeat". This means that Farmer knows that his goal of bringing medicine to everyone in need of it is unattainable, but trying despite the odds is better than not doing anything at all. Another theme of this novel is the journey of the individual, the trials and tribulations, the passions, and goals of Paul Farmer that essentially build the story.


Mountains Beyond Mountains is a powerful and inspiring book that shows how one person can make a difference. Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who has set out to do all he can to help the world. It shows how radical change can take place even in hopeless situations, and how a beautiful life can be created through giving to others.