Greg Mortenson’s dangerous and difficult quest...is not only a thrilling read, it’s proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world.
Mortenson is surely right that education is key to the battle with jihadists for Muslim minds. But ... [his] book is full of self-indulgent digressions, clunky prose and odd, hagiographic references to himself.... The problem stems in part from the awkward construction of the book, which is written as an admiring, extended third-person interview by its co-author, journalist [David Oliver Relin]. He acknowledges being in awe of Mortenson, [who is not] nearly as interesting as the characters and situations Mortenson encounters in the remote tribal regions of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Here, Relin's prose gains both altitude and insight.... Mortenson's mission is admirable, his conviction unassailable, his territory exotic and his timing excellent. His story would have been better served, though, by a tougher editor and a book that was shorter, leaner and freer of fawning.
Pamela Constable - Washington Post
Laced with drama, danger, romance, and good deeds, Mortenson's story serves as a reminder of the power of a good idea and the strength inherent in one person's passionate determination to persevere against enormous obstacles.
Christian Science Monitor
Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse's unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world's second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993, Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to build the impoverished town's first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts Mortenson's efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls. Captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of both hostilities and unlikely friendships, this book will win many readers' hearts.
An unlikely diplomat scores points for America in a corner of the world hostile to all things American-and not without reason. Mortenson first came to Pakistan to climb K2, the world's second-tallest peak, seeking to honor his deceased sister by leaving a necklace of hers atop the summit. The attempt failed, and Mortenson, emaciated and exhausted, was taken in by villagers below and nursed back to health. He vowed to build a school in exchange for their kindness, a goal that would come to seem as insurmountable as the mountain, thanks to corrupt officials and hostility on the part of some locals. Yet, writes Parade magazine contributor Relin, Mortenson had reserves of stubbornness, patience and charm, and, nearly penniless himself, was able to piece together dollars enough to do the job; remarks one donor after writing a hefty check, "You know, some of my ex-wives could spend more than that in a weekend," adding the proviso that Mortenson build the school as quickly as possible, since said donor wasn't getting any younger. Just as he had caught the mountaineering bug, Mortenson discovered that he had a knack for building schools and making friends in the glacial heights of Karakoram and the remote deserts of Waziristan; under the auspices of the Central Asia Institute, he has built some 55 schools in places whose leaders had long memories of unfulfilled American promises of such help in exchange for their services during the war against Russia in Afghanistan. Comments Mortenson to Relin, who is a clear and enthusiastic champion of his subject, "We had no problem flying in bags of cash to pay the warlords to fight against the Taliban. I wondered why we couldn't do the same thing to build roads, and sewers, and schools." Answering by delivering what his country will not, Mortenson is "fighting the war on terror the way I think it should be conducted," Relin writes. This inspiring, adventure-filled book makes that case admirably.
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