By Maria SpeidelJONATHAN DURBINVICK BOUGHTON and FRANCINE PROSE
Updated March 20, 2006 12:00 PM
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by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

REVIEWED BY MARIA SPEIDEL

CRITIC’S CHOICE

MEMOIR

In the summer of 1993, Mortenson, a strapping emergency-room nurse from San Francisco, became separated from his group during a chaotic descent from Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second-highest peak. He wandered in a glacier-studded wasteland for a week before a tribesman found him and brought him to the Muslim village of Korphe.

It was a day that changed Mortenson’s life, as well as the villagers’, and Three Cups of Tea is an inspiring chronicle of their relationship. Recuperating over three days, Mortenson, then 35, was astonished to learn that the village had no teacher. Vowing to help the people who’d saved him, he began an epic push to fund a school. He pecked out 580 letters asking luminaries for money (only Tom Brokaw sent a check); lived in a car and accepted donations in pennies. Ten years later his project had blossomed into the Central Asia Institute, which has built 55 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Though the coauthor sometimes tries too hard to milk the drama in Mortenson’s story, he doesn’t have to; this is one protagonist who clearly deserves to be called a hero.

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