It’s no secret that one of my favorite books is Mountains Beyond Mountains, the biography of Dr. Paul Farmer, where Kidder traces Farmer’s adolescent life, formative years in Haiti as a young adult, admission to Harvard Medical School, founding of Partners In Health, and ultimately changing the face of the global health dialogue. In his latest book, Kidder writes the biography of Deo, a Burundian refugee who fled the Hutu-led genocide there to escape to New York City with two-hundred dollars in his pocket. Through a series of chance encounters, he learns the hardships of living in America, working for a dollar-an-hour as a grocery deliverer, but also the generosity and love that strangers are capable of. He begins to learn English, studies at a local college, and in the next few years earns entry to Columbia, and then Harvard.
This is a really good book, partially because Kidder is one of the most talented writers alive today, and partially because Deo’s story is amazingly compelling. I highly recommend it. One ancillary benefit of the book: much in the same way that Mountains Beyond Mountains will leave you with a pretty good understanding of the history of Haiti, Strength In What Remains will leave you with the beginnings of an understanding of the history and background of ethnic violence in Rwanda and Burundi. If you can’t find the time to read this book, here’s a pretty good interview on NPR with Tracy Kidder.