Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende and Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (optional)
Selected by Rachel Maughan
Please note: I forgot about one part at the beginning of Island Beneath the Sea that is more descriptive than I remembered. You may want to skip pages 19 – 20 and the first paragraph of page 21. I think this is the only place where it she goes into more graphic detail… Sorry!
From Amazon.com (Island Beneath the Sea):
Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue—the daughter of an African mother she never knew and a white sailor who brought her into bondage—Zarité, known as Tété, survives a childhood of brutality and fear, finding solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in her exhilarating initiation into the mysteries of voodoo.
When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, he discovers that running his father’s plantation is neither glamorous nor easy. Marriage also proves problematic when, eight years later, he brings home a bride. But it is his teenaged slave, Tété, upon whom Valmorain becomes most dependent, as their lives intertwine across four tumultuous decades.
In Island Beneath the Sea, internationally acclaimed author Isabel Allende spins the unforgettable saga of an extraordinary woman determined to find love amid loss and forge her own identity under the cruelest of circumstances.
From Amazon.com (Mountains Beyond Mountains):
This compelling and inspiring book, now in a deluxe paperback edition, shows how one person can work wonders. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Pulitzer Prize—winning author Tracy Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who loves the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.
In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”–as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.
“Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with a force of gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr notes, “[Paul Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”
These books were selected because:
I picked these books because I have been researching disaster recovery in Haiti for my thesis project for school and I believe that when we understand the historical perspective of a country we can begin to find solutions that will not only solve the immediate problems but lead to lasting change. Haiti is a country that has been used by other countries as a pawn throughout history and the problems that Haiti is facing today are a direct result of the actions taken by the French and US governments, in addition to a few others, over the last three centuries. These books illustrate how the people of Haiti were set up to fail, but also provide solutions and hope for a better future and show the enduring strength of a beautiful people.
I think that Isabel Allende does a really good job of telling the history of Haiti in a very understandable and interesting way, and when it is about one person it is easier to grasp the impact on the whole than reading a dry history book – although I can suggest a few of those, too!
I love the Mountains Beyond Mountains book because Paul Farmer is one of my heroes and I want to be like him when I grow up! He is a perfect example for me of one of my personal mottoes: “Everybody counts or nobody counts” (stolen from Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch character – if anyone is looking for a really good mystery / thriller / police series). Partners in Health, Paul Farmer’s organization, offers an anthropological approach to solving medical problems, which I think is critical to changing the health problems faced by societies everywhere today, and I believe that we have to have a healthy society in order to have a functioning society.
If you do read both books, I would suggest reading Island Beneath the Sea first as it will give you a historical perspective of Haiti that will help explain some of the problems that are faced by Haitians in Mountains Beyond Mountains.
Island Beneath the Sea Mountains Beyond Mountains