Three Cups of Tea has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 3 years. It has been selected by countless book clubs and "one book" one community reads since its publication. I read this for the February discussion of the Flower Memorial Library Book group. I was excited to finally read it. In my last year at Sackets Harbor School I had planned to do a "one school" one book program with it since it was available as a picture book and middle school book. I was sure I would love the book when I read it, but I didn't. I struggled with the names and places and found that it was taxing trying to follow the authors' travels to and from Pakistan.
Mortensen's story begins when he arrives in a remote village of Pakistan in 1993 after a failed attempt to climb to the summit of K2. He is exhausted, barely conscious, and is nursed back to health by the villagers. He makes a promise to return to the village and build a school for the children, especially the girls. The book is an accounting of how he makes this dream become a reality and the setbacks and triumphs that occur along the way. It amazed me as he set about his campaign to raise money that he was unaware of how to use a computer. The process both in the U.S. and Pakistan was painstakingly slow. Numerous trips to Pakistan resulted in roadblocks from a bridge that needed to be constructed so that supplies could get to the designated area, to the kidnapping and imprisonment of Mortensen. The story of bringing his dream to reality is inspiring and amazing. He continues his work today as well as maintaining a very rigorous speaking schedule.
Once again, I encounter a woman who is an absolute saint for standing in support of her husband's endeavors. Mortensen met and married Dr. Tara Bishop on a return trip home from Pakistan. It was virtually love at first sight and an incredible meeting and marriage. She has supported his many trips and his devotion to the cause of education in Pakistan.
What bothered me about the book was the style in which the book was written. I often felt that I needed a road map to make sure I was in the right place. The authors switch localities back and forth without much transition. The names caused me to struggle as well. I was glad to hear that in his follow-up book Stones into Schools now has a "who's who" as well as a glossary of Pakistani vocabulary. Many schools in the US have adopted his Pennies for Peace campaign. One can read about Mortensen and his projects at the Three Cups of Tea website.