March 08, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

Three Cups of Tea

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
publisher
Viking
genre
Nonfiction
We gave it a B

Part mountaineering memoir, part puff profile, but largely a testament to a generosity that transcends politics and religion, Three Cups of Tea shares the story of a consummate outdoorsman-turned-infidel saint. Separated from his expedition while scaling K2 in 1993, a moribund Greg Mortenson staggered into a Himalayan shantytown in northern Pakistan. Nursed back to health, Mortenson pledged to build a school for a village where sticks and dirt were used to practice multiplication tables. He has since erected 55 schools across the Muslim mountain region, amid brushes with local crooks, kidnappers, a salty Swiss philanthropist, Tom Brokaw, and the Taliban. Parade editor David Oliver Relin’s fawning portrayal (Mortenson’s only vice seems to be perpetual tardiness) can verge on tall tale, but the nobility of Mortenson’s mountain-moving mission shines through the humdrum prose.

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