“An Imperfect Offering”

March 6, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Nonfiction | Leave a comment

This is the kind of book that, read at the right age, could transform a person’s career goals.  James Orbinkski, M.D., a past president of Doctors Without Borders, writes about his life in the context of his humanitarian work.  It sort of makes every other job seem pointless.

An Imperfect Offering is how Orbinski describes the tradeoff of amputating a man’s leg to save his life.  It also seems to refer to the fact that, as important as humanitarian efforts are, they never quite seem to solve the original problem and they can’t reach everyone who needs help.  Orbinski reminds me of Schindler crying out that if he had sold his ring he could have helped more people.  No matter how much he does, he wishes he could do more, and he’s probably more haunted by the people he couldn’t help than by memories of the people he did.

An Imperfect Offering is big, but it reads like a novel – like a potboiler, in fact.  It also contains some of the most gruesome scenes I have ever read in any book.  Oddly, all the accompanying photos are of smiling people – though some are carrying automatic rifles – and I could only feel grateful that they were not more, um, gritty representations of the story line.  All in all, it was truly a terrific read.

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