Sunday, March 22, 2009

Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse's unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world's second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993, Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to build the impoverished town's first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts Mortenson's efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls. (by Publisher's Weekly)

My Review: The Bookmarks Magazine review of this book, found on states that "critics agree that Three Cups of Tea should be read for its inspirational value rather than for its literary merit" and I agree with this statement. This is not to say that the writing is bad, it is simply not the reason you are reading the book. The writing tells the story, and the story is why you are reading. You read because you simply cannot imagine the courage and dedication it takes to do what Greg Mortenson did and does. You are astounded at what he accomplishes. You read because you are thrilled that there are people in the world who DO things like this but you wouldn't believe it if the book didn't tell you about it.

I started this book as I often do when I begin a "trendy" book, feeling cynical. Particularly if it is a "feel good" book. Judge me as you will, I just can't stand being manipulated. I guess for this reason the writing is well done, because David Relin, the journalist telling the story does not preach the religion of David Mortenson, despite his confession in the prelude that he was not able to stay unbiased in his research and strongly supports Mortenson's efforts. And who wouldn't? Mortenson's actions seem almost wholly self-less, he serves the poorest among us, he has glaring weaknesses which do not stop his progress.

Mortenson's reasoning behind his actions is that providing an unbiased education to children allows them to better the lives of their families and villages, rather than fall victim to extremist groups who provide the only real educational alternative. With his meager beginnings (50 schools at the time of this books writing) he is only a drop in the bucket, but to those individual children and families he has provided hope instead of hatred and fear. He does not promote western ideals, only education. He has no agenda, only a guiding sense of fairness.

(Shallow P.S. One highlight of the book is the incredibly romantic meeting/courtship/wedding of Mortenson and his incredibly patient wife. Awwww.....)

My Rating: 4 for the book overall. 5 for David Mortenson (and his organization Central Asia Institute).

Sum it up: A philanthropic action/adventure novel set in a culture you likely know very little about.

Also reviewed by Kari.


MindySue said...

I really loved this book--his idea that best way to promote peace is to educate the women of this world was especially significant. I admired the way he went about his work, using the resources in the area and trying to remain as non-governmental as humanly possible. We need more of this man in the world. Definitely an exceptional read. I'm with you on the rating!!

Heather said...

I really loved this book and the insights it brought, especially about the importance of providing an education to the future generations over there and how that may help prevent all the terrorism. I would rate this as one of my favorites. And I am in complete awe of his wife, I'm not sure I could be so generous and understanding with my husband.

MindySue said...

Ditto Heather, I don't think I could handle it either...and unbiased education is the best way to prevent terrorism.

dollycas aka Lori said...

this has been on my list to read for reading group at church and just haven't picked it up yet. great review! helps me a lot!!


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