Three Cups of Tea And Its Dark History

I wrote this book review thinking that I was going to just going to post a normal review. But as I did the research, I found out a dark history hidden behind the pages of Three Cups of Tea by  Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. What was supposed to be a philanthropist novel turned into a money-grabbing scheme that tarnished the reputation of a journalist and then some.

Three Cups of Tea: Summary

Mountaineer Greg Mortenson and his crew planned to climb K2, the world’s second highest mountain in 1993. Mortenson wanted to honor his sister Christa who had passed away. He planned to lay her amber necklace on the mountain’s summit.

But after 70 days on the mountain, the crew had to stop their climb and had to rescue one of the climbers. Mortenson was separated from his crew and descended the mountain alone. His got lost while descending down the mountain and was hungry and exhausted.

Three Cups of Tea book
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin book review

Mortenson’s crew was waiting for him at Askole but he ended coming across a small village that was built around a canyon. Here, Mortenson was greeted by the chief elder Korphe, who took the lost and exhausted Mortenson in.

After some discussions with Korphe, Mortenson discovered that the village had no school. He promised he would build a school for the village.

Follow Mortenson as he recalls the daunting task of raising funds for the schools. He also negotiated with many leaders and organizations which led to him receiving death threats, being separated from his family and even being kidnapped.

Some Background Information

While looking up this novel, I came across some information that was news to me. In 2011, Mortenson was accused Mortenson of lying in the novel and mismanaging CAI funds, the organization Mortenson and Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer who donated the money needed for the schools.

In 2012, Mortenson agreed to pay $1 million to CAI following an investigation. According to the inquiry, it was determined that Mortenson had misspend over $6 million of the organization’s money. No criminal charges were filed.

David Oliver Relin, the co-author of the novel, also the one who accused Mortenson of mismanaging CAI’s money ended up committing suicide in 2012. He “suffered emotionally and financially as basic facts in the book were called into question.”

Relin was a journalist whose perspective the novel is written from. He interviewed Mortenson and admitted that he was bias and wanted Mortenson to succeed in his mission. Relin even publicly stated that Mortenson should not have been named co-author as royalties were split between the authors.

My Thoughts On Three Cups of Tea

After learning about the dark history of the novel, I will not be reading it again. It started off as a humanitarian effort and turned into being solely about money. Relin had the unfortunate luck of being caught in the disaster the folded publicly.

For that reason, this isn’t a novel I will recommend. This is by far the most disheartening book review I have done. Now, I won’t be able to think of anything else whenever I see this novel.

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9 thoughts on “Three Cups of Tea And Its Dark History

  1. aparna12 says:

    A fabulous and very interesting book review. It’s shocking and disheartening to know such things happening under the guise of what could be a great book! Very well written.

  2. Liz Dexter says:

    I remember reading this excitedly then finding out the awful truth behind it, in fact I only mention that Relin talks about “some problems” in my 2010 review. In fact, I didn’t know Relin had sadly taken his own life (and also can I point out please that that’s the way that is now described, according to mental health charity guidelines in the UK and elsewhere, or “died by suicide”, the important point being it’s not a crime that’s committed, just as a quick aside).


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