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Strength in What Remains

Tracy Kidder’s true story about a Tutsi medical student who fled to the US illustrates the power of forgiveness.

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Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains takes us into familiar and unfamiliar territory. In a previous book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Kidder examined the life of physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, an international health and social justice organization.

Farmer attended to the medical needs of some of the world’s most underserved populations: slum dwellers in Peru, prisoners in Russia, and especially the rural poor of Haiti – a group that touched him particularly deeply.

Now Kidder returns to the theme of humanitarianism, but with a difference: Instead of documenting the work of a Harvard-educated physician and his efforts to ameliorate suffering, Kidder finds greatness in someone who has suffered, a refugee from Burundi – a Tutsi – named Deogratias. His story is about curing the body and redeeming the inner man as well.

Deogratis, whose name is a Latin phrase meaning “Thanks be to God,” was on the run when he came to the United States in 1994, posing as a coffee merchant. Actually, he was a medical student who had spent months traveling overland on foot to avoid being caught and killed by Hutu militias.

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