Monday, June 7, 2010

Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Summary: "Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business: the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything--even die."
-Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoran Mountains, Pakistan

The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his remarkable humanitarian campaign in the Taliban's backyard.

In 1993 a mountaineer named Greg Mortenson drifted into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram mountains after a failed attempt to climb K2. Moved by the inhabitants' kindness, he promised to return and build a school. Three Cups of Tea is the story of that promise and its extraordinary outcome. Over the next decade Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools--especially for girls--in the forbidding terrain that gave birth to the Taliban. His story is at once a riveting adventure and a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit. (Image from and summary from back of the book.)

My Review: I am torn writing this review. Maybe it's because it was probably rushed into publication, maybe it's because people are human and therefore error is inevitable, maybe it's just the way this story happens to be told. Regardless of all this I feel I must mention how ridiculously difficult it was to get to the end of the book. I truly was interested; I wanted to know the outcome and was cheering for Mortenson from the beginning. I felt a true kinship to his desire to help those less fortunate being a teacher at a school with 82% poverty. That aside, there were parts I was trying desperately to peel my eyes back open so as to read a few more pages before giving up for the night. A good book never has that affect on me. Typically it's the opposite--I can't put the book down and forgo sleep in order to finish. For example, some of the metaphors made me groan out loud. I teach middle school--I know what a painfully used metaphor sounds like.

There is one other aspect that started to bother me by the end of the story. Mortenson truly is a laudable human being. He sacrificed much to give to the impoverished people in Pakistan and Afghanistan schools where their children could learn in safety. All this is commendable. But, after a while it starts to sound almost like he was tooting his own horn. Having your name on the front of the book as an author (the main author in my mind considering his name is first) and then repeating over and over again how the people in these regions practically praised his name right along with Allah, well it started to not settle well with me.

All this aside, what he accomplished is truly wonderful and something I can fully stand behind. Knowledge is power and that is what he's giving to the poor people in these small villages. He's empowering the women and the men, giving them brighter futures than they could have ever hoped for before these schools were built.

I just wish it was written better. I'm so glad to be done reading this book.

Rating: 2.5 for the writing, 5 stars for the humanitarian efforts.

Sum it up: Detail ridden, but overwhelmingly moving story of change and charity.

Also reviewed by Emily.

1 comment:

Sweet Em said...

I essentially agreed with you in my review. The process, efforts, effects are great. The writing, so-so. However I do think most of it was written by David Oliver Relin and they just put Greg Mortenson's name first for recognition.

I am really bummed that Mortenson spoke in my town, but the 700 free tickets were snatched up in one day. Not by me. :(


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