Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (Rated: C)

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Although some may think this book is a biography, it’s not. It’s really the true telling of how Greg Mortenson went from being a mountain climber to a humanitarian whose extraordinary work has touched the lives of a people much misunderstood. It is an enlightening tale of courage, determination, loyalty and “one man’s mission to promote peace…one school at a time”.

From the minute I began reading the story I was hooked. It began with Mortenson getting lost after his failed attempt to climb K2 in the Karakoram mountain range in the remote area of Pakistan. He ends up in the impoverished village of Korphe—exhausted and weak—where the inhabitants take care of him until he is strong enough to return home.

Upon discovering they have no school, Mortenson promises to return and build one. Thus, begins a lifelong brotherhood relationship. He keeps his promise, willingly making lifestyle sacrifices. Through his attempts to raise funds and accomplish a daunting task that many would have found impossible to achieve, we discover what kind of man Mortenson really is.

My admiration for him kept growing as I flipped through the pages. His story is remarkable as he gives us a glimpse of a world few of us know, of a simple and fiercely loyal people whose principles are worthy of learning. You won’t easily forget the words of Haji Ali, the Korphe village chief who said, “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.”

We also get an inside view of what was happening in the Taliban-infested areas just before and right after 9/11, and how the Muslim people suffered at their hands. This particular part of the book fascinated me.

This book is certainly not a cut and dry account, but one rich in details, and journalist Relin does a great job of painting a vivid picture. At times, though, I was frustrated with his sentence structure, having to reread some sentences several times before I got the gist of what he was saying. Simplifying his writing would have made for better reading.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in others, to those who tend to be prejudiced and to those who are involved in the helping field, as Mortenson, heroic and bigger-than-life, is described also as a man with weaknesses who struggles with his feelings of inadequacy. This portrayal made me feel a kinship with this kind and generous man whose story sends out a powerful message.

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