Monday, December 8, 2008

Review and Recommendation - Three Cups of Tea

I finally found my copy of Three cups of Tea and I'm glad I did. It promted me to check out the web site for current news on co-author Greg Mortenson. That's how I learned that on August 14th, 2008, Pakistan's government announced Greg Mortenson - American, author, humanitarian - will receive the Star of Pakistan (Sitara-e-Pakistan), Pakistan's highest civil award. What could one person possibly do to receive such recognition from a foreign government? You can read the abbreviated version on the Three Cups of Tea website, but to get the full impact of this incredible story, you must read Three Cups of Tea.

While writing the review below, I found it impossible to separate the book from the man. So let me say here, this is an extremely well written book, full of drama and suspense whose excitement increases every time you remember – this is not fiction.

Three Cups of Tea
By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Penguin Books
Copyright 2006
Paperback, 331 pages, $15.00

Reviewed by Charlotte Phillips

The excitement and drama of this tale begins with the first sentence of the introduction (“The Little red light had been flashing for five minutes before Bhangoo paid it any attention. ‘The fuel gages on these old aircraft are notoriously unreliable,’ Brigadier General Bhangoo…said, tapping it.”) and continues through the last story paragraph where we find Mr. Mortenson “…conscious, not of the gunmen still observing him through their sniperscopes…”).

Greg Mortenson’s life has been one of dedication, determination, and achievement in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. If you’ve ever wondered how one average person could make a difference in the lives of thousands, leave the world a better place than he found it, and overcome political and religious opposition to do so, you need to meet Greg Mortenson. Not convinced? Co-author David Relin says, “As a journalist who has practiced this odd profession of probing into people’s lives for two decades, I’ve met more than my share of public figures who didn’t measure up to their own press. But at Korphe and every other Pakistani village where I was welcomed like long-lost family, because another American had taken the time to forge ties there, I saw the story of the last ten years of Greg Mortenson’s existence branch and fork with a richness and complexity far beyond what most of us achieve over the course of a full-length life.”
In 1993, Greg Mortenson was descending K2 after a failed attempt to reach the summit. In the process, he managed to lose both his group and the trail – twice. On his second attempt to reunite himself with the correct trail, he stumbled into a village called Korphe, Pakistan where the poverty-stricken inhabitants took him in, nursed him back to health and ensured he found his way to the correct village – Askole. Three Cups of Tea is the story of how Greg Mortenson decided to repay the villagers’ kindness by building a village school and how that promise has grown into a life’s passion. He built that first school and has built more than fifty others.

He continues to spend the better part of each year in Pakistan and Afghanistan, building more schools. His efforts are not without risk. He has survived, among other events you can read about in the book, armed kidnapping and multiple fatwas. Not all the risks come from abroad. Some Americans don’t understand his work and his life has been threatened more than once on home soil.

You might wonder, as I did, what the title – Three Cups of Tea – has to do with the story. The answer comes from Haji Ali, village chief of Korphe, who explains, “Here 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.”

This is a remarkable story of a remarkable life and I highly recommend it.

While checking the website to gain current information on Mr. Mortenson’s projects, I noticed there are now young adult and children’s versions of the story, which would make wonderful Christmas gifts. Click here to learn how to order Three Cups of Tea and have up to 7% of the proceeds benefit the Central Asian Institute.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Three cups of Tea sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the recommendation, Charlotte.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

you're welcome Jean. Looking forward to your visit on Dec. 12.