Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin,
Three Cups of Tea
(Penguin, 2006)

This remarkably well-told report of how a dedicated individual is making changes in the least accessible and most hardened society on Earth is not just a wonderful read -- it's truly inspirational. One man's pragmatic and compassionate approach to the evils of terrorism is long overdue.

The central figure is Greg Mortenson, an American mountaineer who wandered by accident into a poor village in a remote region of Pakistan after a failure to scale K2. Throughout the book, he refers to his failures with a humility that belies his intense determination to make a difference to the people who helped him. He quickly sees the best that can be done for these people and for the whole region is to find a way to give them education, especially the women.

His struggles to find the funding, the right places for the schools and the right help to get them built read like a thriller, including near-death escapes. The title refers to the tradition in Muslim countries of offering refreshment to strangers, usually tea. One cup of tea is the standard offer to a stranger. A second cup makes the stranger a friend, the third makes him a member of the family.

It's hard to believe that anyone who reads this book can leave it without taking a new look and making a new assessment of current foreign policy.

review by
Joan L. Cannon

29 September 2007

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