Dr. Farmer, Myra, and DeWitt

One of the presenters at the recent Rock Hill Intensive Writing Workshop said she blogged every day. When I asked her how she did that AND continued to write her mysteries, she replied that sometimes she might just put a photograph or a quote because she believed that something should be there.

I agree in theory, but in practice, well, I’m not as focused.

Nevertheless, today I’m adding modified versions of two reviews I recently put on Amazon, one of a nonfiction book about a doctor who has devoted his adult life to improving the lives of people in Haiti and another of a novel that captured and held my attention until the last page.

I read Mountains Beyond Mountains a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed learning about Paul Farmer and others who have been working for decades to improve the health, well-being, and living conditions for people in Haiti, Peru, and Russia. A co-founder of Partners In Health, Dr. Farmer and his cohorts continue to give of their time, money, talents, and just about all of their resources to help ease the suffering of the poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned, and dying.

Until reading Tracy Kidder’s book, I didn’t know men like Farmer and his ilk existed. Someone asked me if he was a Christian, and I replied that he doesn’t talk much about his religious beliefs except for a frequent reference to the 40th verse in Matthew 25: “Verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Farmer definitely walks the talk.

Mountains Beyond Mountains is the second of Kidder’s books that I have read, the first being Strength in What Remains….In both books, Kidder’s descriptions of Haiti, Cuba, NYC, Burundi, and several other locales are so realistic that the reader can see, hear, and smell the environments. He’s also a master at adding an encyclopedic array of facts while holding the reader’s interest. Although I knew economics and medicine were related, I now have a deeper understanding of the interplay between politics, poverty, wealth, and healthcare.

Never Change by Elizabeth Berg appealed to me on so many levels. On the surface, it’s a love story about Myra and Chip. But it’s also about love and connections between Dewitt, Diane, Marvelous, Mrs. Peters, Fitz, and a host of other interesting characters. All have been broken, and all are healing. Hemingway’s quote at the beginning of the book is perfect for what’s ahead: “The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.”

The story line is basically boy meets girl. I say “basically” because there’s so much more than that. Woven into the plot are life issues like commitment, death, illness, disappointment, loss, fear, and love. Myra, the protagonist is a visiting nurse whose daily round takes her into the homes of a variety of people, including a drug dealer who’s healing from a gunshot wound and a fifteen-year-old unwed mother who’s fallen in love with her baby. And then there’s Chip Reardon.

The writing is magnificent. The scene descriptions are so amazing that I went back and read several of them twice—some thrice. And the character sketches are so good! And the dialogue—believable and funny with no wasted words. Berg is a master at using dialogue to move the action along and to allow the reader to actually feel “in the scene.”

I finished this book three days ago, and since then I’ve been thinking about the Chips and Myras and DeWitts and Graces in the world, all of them survivors in some way—just like the rest of us.

About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
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