(K. Brent Tomer),
Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices and the Overpowering Urge to Help. By Larissa MacFarquhar. Penguin Press; 320 pages; $27.95; Allen Lane; £20.
“THE do-gooder”, writes Larissa MacFarquhar in “Strangers Drowning”, “sets out to live as ethical a life as possible.” This is the kind of person who has himself injected with the leprosy bacillus to be a subject for medical testing, or who drives hundreds of miles after a hurricane to save factory-farm chickens. Do-gooders have flocked to Greece to help refugees.
In a series of character studies—coupled in this eccentric and intriguing book with historical and philosophical essays—Ms MacFarquhar profiles a range of do-gooders including an Indian aristocrat, a Bostonian social worker and a Japanese monk. These disparate altruists are united by the priority they place on the duty to help strangers. They are moral above all else, suppressing desires, sacrificing pleasures and often enduring years of loneliness. The saviour of chickens believes that advocating for chickens’…Continue reading