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A true life medical thriller . . . If what we want in this moment is insight from this brilliant doctor about pandemics, he wants us to see that they do not occur in isolation. --Carolyn Kellogg, The Boston Globe In 2014, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea suffered the worst epidemic of Ebola in history. The brutal virus spread rapidly through a clinical desert where basic h A true life medical thriller . . . If what we want in this moment is insight from this brilliant doctor about pandemics, he wants us to see that they do not occur in isolation. --Carolyn Kellogg, The Boston Globe In 2014, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea suffered the worst epidemic of Ebola in history. The brutal virus spread rapidly through a clinical desert where basic health-care facilities were few and far between. Causing severe loss of life and economic disruption, the Ebola crisis was a major tragedy of modern medicine. But why did it happen, and what can we learn from it? Paul Farmer, the internationally renowned doctor and anthropologist, experienced the Ebola outbreak firsthand--Partners in Health, the organization he founded, was among the international responders. In Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds, he offers the first substantive account of this frightening, fast-moving episode and its implications. In vibrant prose, Farmer tells the harrowing stories of Ebola victims while showing why the medical response was slow and insufficient. Rebutting misleading claims about the origins of Ebola and why it spread so rapidly, he traces West Africa's chronic health failures back to centuries of exploitation and injustice. Under formal colonial rule, disease containment was a priority but care was not - and the region's health care woes worsened, with devastating consequences that Farmer traces up to the present. This thorough and hopeful narrative is a definitive work of reportage, history, and advocacy, and a crucial intervention in public-health discussions around the world.


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A true life medical thriller . . . If what we want in this moment is insight from this brilliant doctor about pandemics, he wants us to see that they do not occur in isolation. --Carolyn Kellogg, The Boston Globe In 2014, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea suffered the worst epidemic of Ebola in history. The brutal virus spread rapidly through a clinical desert where basic h A true life medical thriller . . . If what we want in this moment is insight from this brilliant doctor about pandemics, he wants us to see that they do not occur in isolation. --Carolyn Kellogg, The Boston Globe In 2014, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea suffered the worst epidemic of Ebola in history. The brutal virus spread rapidly through a clinical desert where basic health-care facilities were few and far between. Causing severe loss of life and economic disruption, the Ebola crisis was a major tragedy of modern medicine. But why did it happen, and what can we learn from it? Paul Farmer, the internationally renowned doctor and anthropologist, experienced the Ebola outbreak firsthand--Partners in Health, the organization he founded, was among the international responders. In Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds, he offers the first substantive account of this frightening, fast-moving episode and its implications. In vibrant prose, Farmer tells the harrowing stories of Ebola victims while showing why the medical response was slow and insufficient. Rebutting misleading claims about the origins of Ebola and why it spread so rapidly, he traces West Africa's chronic health failures back to centuries of exploitation and injustice. Under formal colonial rule, disease containment was a priority but care was not - and the region's health care woes worsened, with devastating consequences that Farmer traces up to the present. This thorough and hopeful narrative is a definitive work of reportage, history, and advocacy, and a crucial intervention in public-health discussions around the world.

30 review for Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kammy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Thank you to the publisher for a copy of This book via netgalley! Nothing is scarier than real life. A first hand account of the devastating human cost of the Ebola pandemic Recounted by the mentee of Dr Fauci. A plea for more to be done in the current Covid-19 pandemic. And a dire warning that Ebola isn’t completely extinct. Will our past help deal with our current, and also enable us to prevent a future one.. Medical .pandemic that is. if not, individuals will continue to struggle to breath...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erika Skarlupka

    Just when I thought I couldn't respect and look up to Paul Farmer any more, he floors me with this. So much more than just a first hand account of the Ebola outbreaks, he dives deep into the social, economic, and militaristic history of the region. It's rare that authors provide such a wide scope all while keeping in mind the vastly unknown, unnamed, poor , neglected, and abused at the center of conflict and contagion. His passion and compassion are every present. A must read as the world reels Just when I thought I couldn't respect and look up to Paul Farmer any more, he floors me with this. So much more than just a first hand account of the Ebola outbreaks, he dives deep into the social, economic, and militaristic history of the region. It's rare that authors provide such a wide scope all while keeping in mind the vastly unknown, unnamed, poor , neglected, and abused at the center of conflict and contagion. His passion and compassion are every present. A must read as the world reels from COVID-19. Thank you to Netgalley for providing me this copy for my honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sami

    This is such a timely book as we are afflicted by the global COVID-19 pandemic and have the crucial post-COVID-19 recovery ahead of us. Anyone familiar with Professor Farmer’s work would appreciate his humble and profoundly holistic approach to health, with rigorous clinical guidance. This is yet another book that is much recommended for healthcare professionals and policy makers alike. I would put two major values on this book, 1) Professor Farmer not only gives a glimpse into the challenges of This is such a timely book as we are afflicted by the global COVID-19 pandemic and have the crucial post-COVID-19 recovery ahead of us. Anyone familiar with Professor Farmer’s work would appreciate his humble and profoundly holistic approach to health, with rigorous clinical guidance. This is yet another book that is much recommended for healthcare professionals and policy makers alike. I would put two major values on this book, 1) Professor Farmer not only gives a glimpse into the challenges of clinical management of Ebola outbreaks, but goes into the underlying details about the anthropological aspects that still play a major role in mitigating such healthcare crises in many parts of the developing world; and 2) the similar challenges, issues, disparities that would be crucial to consider as we globally embark in the journey of a post-COVID-19 recovery. This is definitely a scholarly literature and although written for a broader audience, I think it can have a larger impact for readers engaged in the healthcare sector. I highly recommend students and early career researchers to read this book as well as other great books from Professor Farmer. Disclaimer: I was provided with an advance reader copy for review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    There is a story in my family about my sister asking Mom a question while she was fixing dinner. Mom told her to go ask our Dad. “I don’t want to know that much,” responded my sister. I fear many readers will have this reaction to Fevers, Feuds and Diamonds by Paul Farmer. Only the nerdiest of global health geeks (like me) will stick with it to the end. The fact is, global health is complicated, and it is complex. What happens when the focus of an epidemic is containment? What if care were given There is a story in my family about my sister asking Mom a question while she was fixing dinner. Mom told her to go ask our Dad. “I don’t want to know that much,” responded my sister. I fear many readers will have this reaction to Fevers, Feuds and Diamonds by Paul Farmer. Only the nerdiest of global health geeks (like me) will stick with it to the end. The fact is, global health is complicated, and it is complex. What happens when the focus of an epidemic is containment? What if care were given priority over containment? How does history impact health, both in the short term and the long term? What is the impact of disease on an individual? A family? A rural village? An urban center? This is one of the few books that tries to look at an epidemic from so many different perspectives. It can feel a mile wide and an inch deep. Today the world is focused on Covid-19, and there is a closing section in this book on it. I would have liked to hear more from Dr. Farmer about lessons from Ebola that we should be applying to managing the novel corona virus, even though that advice would likely fall on deaf ears in the current administration.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Boston

    Critical reading for 2020 This book about global health injustice is enlightening at this moment in time: the historical reckoning with slavery since 1619, the global movement for Black lives, and the unequal life-and-death impacts of this global coronavirus pandemic. Reading this made me rethink my own complicity and benefits in our long-term global economic system, and what I owe as a result. I think Bryan Stevenson just said it best: "Paul Farmer's devastating account of catastrophic disease an Critical reading for 2020 This book about global health injustice is enlightening at this moment in time: the historical reckoning with slavery since 1619, the global movement for Black lives, and the unequal life-and-death impacts of this global coronavirus pandemic. Reading this made me rethink my own complicity and benefits in our long-term global economic system, and what I owe as a result. I think Bryan Stevenson just said it best: "Paul Farmer's devastating account of catastrophic disease and death created by unjust systems, structures, and abusive history is timely, urgent and terrifying. This moving and compelling book is a tragic but necessary journey guided by an extraordinary anthropologist, historian, teacher, writer, and doctor who has served the poor and disfavored for decades. He has much to teach us in these perilous times."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ula

    A very wise, well written and timely book, not only because of the current pandemic. Paul Farmer is an exceptional man, and it's worth listening to what he has to say. The book provides not only a fascinating description of the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa but also answers to the question: "how the heck this happened". I think it's thanks to his anthropological background that he can describe the history of this turbulent region with such empathy and understanding. The only other medical au A very wise, well written and timely book, not only because of the current pandemic. Paul Farmer is an exceptional man, and it's worth listening to what he has to say. The book provides not only a fascinating description of the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa but also answers to the question: "how the heck this happened". I think it's thanks to his anthropological background that he can describe the history of this turbulent region with such empathy and understanding. The only other medical author that I can compare him to is my favourite Atul Gawande. Highly recommended! Thanks to the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Keenan

    The subtitle of Paul Farmer's latest book, Ebola and the Ravages of History, hints at the two different but inextricably linked topics we as readers learn about over the next 700 pages, namely the Ebola pandemic that ravaged Upper East Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea) and the historical and present-day cultural and economic factors that made such a pandemic unavoidable. Social medicine, which Paul Farmer has long been a strong advocate for, makes the case that healthcare can only be ad The subtitle of Paul Farmer's latest book, Ebola and the Ravages of History, hints at the two different but inextricably linked topics we as readers learn about over the next 700 pages, namely the Ebola pandemic that ravaged Upper East Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea) and the historical and present-day cultural and economic factors that made such a pandemic unavoidable. Social medicine, which Paul Farmer has long been a strong advocate for, makes the case that healthcare can only be administered properly when it harmonizes with the culture and mindset of the sick on the receiving end. The botched domestic and international response to Ebola in Upper East Africa, in this context, is thereby revealed in all its clarity: an inability to deliver effective treatment there is ultimately rooted in the failed worldview of nations and businesses who see these countries as sources of materials, both raw and human. To give some examples: -- A decision among international aid organizations was made early on that containment would be prioritized above all else, while funds could not be mustered for treating anyone that catches Ebola. Without having the resources to treat the sick, any aid workers that caught the virus needed to be medevacked to Europe or the States at considerable expense, far more than would have been required to provide basic necessities to village hospitals. Similar policies had been implemented in these countries over the last two centuries with extremely similar results. -- Media outlets in the West openly speculated as to why locals would rather hide their sick in their homes and risk infection than report the ill to authorities. Historical context reminds us that white people have a troubling past of permanently taking away African bodies, while present day economic conditions that largely result from exploitative industries run by Americans and Europeans mean that the great majority of the population barely has enough to survive, let alone isolate alone for weeks on end. -- Containment over care is seen not only in the disregard over mortality by high-ups in international organizations, but in the failure to provide necessary basic supplies for the treatment of long-term side effects of Ebola, including blindness and renal failure. History repeats quickly, as seen when the rush of aid inflowing to these countries following civil war in the 90s/early 2000s quickly dries up before long-term solutions to the obliterated medical system can be provided. In addition to providing us with the tragic history needed to give context as to why Upper West Africa ended up as the scene of one of this century's deadliest pandemics, Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds delivers heartfelt stories of people who have lived through a hundred lifetimes worth of pain and still manage to keep going, doctors and nurses who gave it their all to the bitter end, and patients learning to cope after the physical and mental trauma of being on the verge of death. I think it's in these stories that Farmer's writing comes with greatest effect, but everything else he writes in this tome adds potency to these stories, and we're left not wondering, but knowing there's a better way. Consider donating to Partners in Health today.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tara Yglesias

    Very Paul Farmer: at least two books folded into one with several excellent and important ideas smothered within.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tommy

    Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds was my first foray into Dr. Paul Farmer since reading Mountains Beyond Mountains nine years ago. Dr. Farmer remains an absolute legend in my mind, yet this book went to show him as less superhuman than I imagined. Personally, I felt like Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds could have benefitted from being about 20% shorter. While I especially enjoyed Dr. Farmer's descriptions of both the clinical and societal presentations of Ebola—as well as his vignettes of two victims affl Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds was my first foray into Dr. Paul Farmer since reading Mountains Beyond Mountains nine years ago. Dr. Farmer remains an absolute legend in my mind, yet this book went to show him as less superhuman than I imagined. Personally, I felt like Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds could have benefitted from being about 20% shorter. While I especially enjoyed Dr. Farmer's descriptions of both the clinical and societal presentations of Ebola—as well as his vignettes of two victims afflicted thereby—it was evident that history is not his strength. Although I feel it important to understand the cacophony of factors that play into epidemics, I personally found it very difficult to keep track of all of the various time lines and places that were presented throughout, hence weakening the overall power of this book. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable book that I would recommend to someone who has plenty of time on their hands to invest in topics that are too often overlooked

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Kay

    This entire book is full of Dr. Paul Farmer’s unique brilliance and compassion, as is all of his work. The real surprise for me, though, is the fact that even in the epilogue he reminds me to remain open to those who don’t comply with current scientific recommendations. I’ve been filled with anger for so many months now, unsure as to how people can care so little (especially when the science is pretty obvious about the right actions to take...), and yet. Here he is, a person who has dedicated hi This entire book is full of Dr. Paul Farmer’s unique brilliance and compassion, as is all of his work. The real surprise for me, though, is the fact that even in the epilogue he reminds me to remain open to those who don’t comply with current scientific recommendations. I’ve been filled with anger for so many months now, unsure as to how people can care so little (especially when the science is pretty obvious about the right actions to take...), and yet. Here he is, a person who has dedicated his life to serving communities impacted most heavily by viruses like this one, reminding me that people don’t have confidence that they would receive adequate healthcare assistance even if they needed it. Trust me, I’m botching his message. But you should stick it out for this one. (Or skip to the epilogue if you’re too impatient.)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Important messages bogged down in detail Although I appreciate the importance of the material covered, I did not enjoy this book. I found that the messages got lost in all the detail. I also was not fond of the writing style which I found overly literary. Disclosure: I received an advance reader copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    This book has extremely broad reach and, really, that is what is necessary to understand the way in which pandemics are grown in history. This is an accessible book of history and anthropology that is built around the Ebola epidemic of 2014. Farmer includes the stories of survivors of Ebola as well as tracking the beginning of the spread of the disease before he and Partners in Health became involved. He explains the disease itself and how it works in the body as well as in society. It is not fo This book has extremely broad reach and, really, that is what is necessary to understand the way in which pandemics are grown in history. This is an accessible book of history and anthropology that is built around the Ebola epidemic of 2014. Farmer includes the stories of survivors of Ebola as well as tracking the beginning of the spread of the disease before he and Partners in Health became involved. He explains the disease itself and how it works in the body as well as in society. It is not for the faint of heart, it is long, but it is easy to read and it is important. It was written before the Covid-19 pandemic but he addresses that in both the intro and the epilogue. We can learn from it for the future of disease in the world.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Watkins

    If you are looking for a Hot Zone style thrill ride, this is not your book. But you will miss a thoughtful, meticulously argued and documented examination of the "clinical desert" that allows Ebola to ravage populations of West Africa. Paul Farmer argues - persuasively - that the devastation of Ebola cannot be understood without reference to the West African histories of slave trade, extractive colonialism, and the therapeutic nihilism that characterizes the disaster caravan's emphasis of virus If you are looking for a Hot Zone style thrill ride, this is not your book. But you will miss a thoughtful, meticulously argued and documented examination of the "clinical desert" that allows Ebola to ravage populations of West Africa. Paul Farmer argues - persuasively - that the devastation of Ebola cannot be understood without reference to the West African histories of slave trade, extractive colonialism, and the therapeutic nihilism that characterizes the disaster caravan's emphasis of virus control over patient care. He both puts a very human face on the suffering that Ebola causes and also places it in a broader historic and social context. This is a book simmering with anger and outrage. It is extraordinary.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Nally

    Very informative book, also very long (25 audio pieces!) and dry. It’s important stuff to know: feuds and diamonds (and feuds about diamonds) caused a poor health system in Sierra Leone and Liberia, which means basic diseases are extremely difficult to impossible to treat. It’s not different strains of Ebola that killed people, it’s lack of access to very basic health care. That’s very sad, and why I support PIH. But, as a narrative it was long and dry and as an audiobook I often found myself dri Very informative book, also very long (25 audio pieces!) and dry. It’s important stuff to know: feuds and diamonds (and feuds about diamonds) caused a poor health system in Sierra Leone and Liberia, which means basic diseases are extremely difficult to impossible to treat. It’s not different strains of Ebola that killed people, it’s lack of access to very basic health care. That’s very sad, and why I support PIH. But, as a narrative it was long and dry and as an audiobook I often found myself drifting in and out and not paying strict attention at all times, and I don’t feel I missed much. I considered abandoning it but pushed through because I wanted the final takeaways, and on that it did at least deliver.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Monique

    Informative if long audio book. I was excited when the author used the word "oubliette" because, let's face it, you don't hear that everyday. First time I was excited, the second puzzled, the three+ times after that I was just annoyed. The repetition bothered me and took away from the information being presented. But that's just me and others may not mind. The book addresses the current novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in the forward and afterword linking it to the author's experiences with Informative if long audio book. I was excited when the author used the word "oubliette" because, let's face it, you don't hear that everyday. First time I was excited, the second puzzled, the three+ times after that I was just annoyed. The repetition bothered me and took away from the information being presented. But that's just me and others may not mind. The book addresses the current novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in the forward and afterword linking it to the author's experiences with Ebola and Lassa in west Africa.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Rumph

    This a very dense book, but it is a very important work. Detailing personal tragedies of the outbreak allows us see first hand how an epidemic affects families and villages. The historical and cultural background of the regions affected provide a lens through which the reader can learn that the reactions of local people and professionals from around the world must combine to create the actions necessary to curtail a deadly disease. This is not an easy book to read, but it is well worth the effor This a very dense book, but it is a very important work. Detailing personal tragedies of the outbreak allows us see first hand how an epidemic affects families and villages. The historical and cultural background of the regions affected provide a lens through which the reader can learn that the reactions of local people and professionals from around the world must combine to create the actions necessary to curtail a deadly disease. This is not an easy book to read, but it is well worth the effort.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    Comprehensive and dense. I got lost every now and then in the medical stuff. The history stuff felt tedious at times (since I took a whole history class in college about Western Africa)...but I like the overall analysis that connects the culture and history to the Ebola epidemics. The brief connection to Covid at the end was also interesting.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This is an interesting book about the history of west Africa (Sierra Leone, Guinnea, & Liberia mostly) and the relationship between colonial stripping these countries of their riches, wars, and the health desert. And the counter-productive practice of "control over treating" the epidemics. The book is very long, and it seems to repeat a lot. I did not finish it, but I learned a lot. This is an interesting book about the history of west Africa (Sierra Leone, Guinnea, & Liberia mostly) and the relationship between colonial stripping these countries of their riches, wars, and the health desert. And the counter-productive practice of "control over treating" the epidemics. The book is very long, and it seems to repeat a lot. I did not finish it, but I learned a lot.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    4.5 stars. Excellent and damning, though Part II, focused on colonialism’s effects on West Africa, was in need of clarification and editing — I fear that readers new to the history of this region would have a hard time following it. Hopefully small improvements that could be made for future editions.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brittney

    I gave this three stars because some of the chapters just didn’t flow for me and a lot of the chapters just spent time dogging the white race. I felt that some of it was necessary but other times I was like most of the people that went over to help the Ebola crisis were white people. Anyway this book is about the Ebola epidemic in 2014 that saw a couple of cases here in the US.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Beaver

    5 stars for the writing on disease and healthcare in West Africa. 2 stars for the tedious and meandering micro-history. This book could have been more effective with tighter pacing and concise editing around the three major themes (disease, war and resource extraction).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Min

    What can I say about this book? Paul Farmer is a hero, who shares wisdom and the plight of the people he helps with the world. This is a necessary book. Read it. It will be hard. But it will be worth it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katie Hamilton

    3.5 - Borderline a textbook but the content was a mixture of history, fact, and memoir. An incredible archive of the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa with an eerie connection to today’s pandemic on both a social and scientific scale.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave J

    Decent book. First and last chapters were better than the middle. The 1/3 of the book could have been summed up as "Colonialism and the slave trade was not good to Western Africa" Decent book. First and last chapters were better than the middle. The 1/3 of the book could have been summed up as "Colonialism and the slave trade was not good to Western Africa"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Excellent. Probably too much information for a lay person.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tam Tam

    Popsugar 2021 Prompt #6: A book with a gem, mineral or rock in the title.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sujata

    This was a read in these times. Learned a lot. And Paul Farmer has a good perspective generally on this from his experience

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Especially important read now. Written with an urgency and moral anger that makes it all the more eloquent.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    Full of first hand experiences and historical background that have helped me to grasp our world a little more clearly. I want to re-read because I know I missed important things.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Morgan

    Read for BookTube Prize. Will rate after round ends.

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