Book Review: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson


Author: Greg Mortenson
Title: Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World… One Child at a Time
Publication Info: Tantor Media (2006), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
ISBN: 1400102510

Summary/Review:

I’m probably the last person in the United States to read this book but here is my review anyway.  This memoir/biography tells the story of Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer who after a failed attempt at summiting K-2 is received warmly in a remote village in Pakistan.  As a means of paying back the people of Korphe for their hospitality he promises to build them a school.  Fulfilling this promise is wrought with many challenges but leads Mortenson to a new mission in life, eventually founding the Central Asia Institute to support education in the remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially for girls as a means of promoting social change and peace.  This is a nice, inspirational work and if you haven’t read it, check it out.

Favorite Passages:

“In times of war, you often hear leaders—Christian, Jewish, and Muslim—saying ‘God is on our side.’ But that isn’t true. In war, God is on the side of refugees, widows, and orphans.” — Greg Mortenson

Recommended books: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy, and A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby.
Rating: ***

Book Reviews: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende


Around the World for a Good Book selection for: Chile

Author: Isabel Allende
Title: The House of the Spirits
Publication Info: Bantam (1986)
ISBN: 0553273914

Summary/Review:

This is an epic tale following several generations of one dysfunctional family: the wealthy Trueba family of Chile.  There story is set against the trials and tribulations of 20th-century Chile leading up to the Pinochet dictatorship (although Pinochet and other real-life characters are never mentioned by name) creating a historical novel with a touch of magical realism.  Esteban Trueba is the patriarch of the family, a hot-headed character who rapes and abuses the tenants of his estate and when he’s unable to control his family, channels his angry energy into right-wing politics.  His wife Clara is a clairvoyant and more-focused on spiritualism and the afterlife than the world around her, yet holds her family together all the same.  Their daughter Blanca causes scandal by her affair with the son of her father’s foreman Pedro Tercero García.  Their daughter is Alba who will go on to get involved with the socialist revolutionaries.

The book’s strength is its characters and Allende manages to make each of them sympathetic, even the loathsome Esteban Trueba.  It’s also subtle in how it builds up to the revolutions of the 1970s.  For much of the book, the characters seem aloof from the political nature of Chile so it’s quite shocking how they are thrust into major roles in the later chapters.

This is an excellent book, a deserved classic, and definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.


Rating: ****

Book Review: The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper


Author: James Fenimore Cooper
Title: The Deerslayer
Publication Info: [Ashland] : Blackstone Audiobooks, [2004]
ISBN: 0786132353

Summary/Review:

This is the first chronological story of Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales although the last of the five books published by Cooper.  I’ve long intended to read this book and I was somewhat disappointed.  It was hard to get past the racism, sexism, and ableism (the inordinate references to Hetty as “feeble-minded”)  even while making allowances for these attitudes being accepted at the time the story is set as well as when Cooper was writing.  The excessive piety and preachiness of Deerslayer and Hetty get obnoxious as well.

That being said, I did enjoy the setting of the book in a New York when it was still a wilderness with warring parties of English & French, Huron, Iroquois & Delaware fighting for its control.   And for all the stereotypes, Cooper wryly shows how the native Indians and the simple woodsman Deerslayer can be more civilized than Europeans like Floating Tom and Hurry Harry.

Despite my disappointment, I would still like to give the next book (chronologically) in the series a chance — The Last of the Mohicans — as it has a good reputation.


Rating: **