This is a book which should inspire and command admiration; it is the story of Greg Mortenson (written by Mortenson himself and David Oliver Relin), who is climbing in the Himalayas, and profoundly disappoints himself by failing in his quest to climb K” in the Karakoram mountains. He was doubly disgusted, because he had made success in this climb essential to honouring his recently deceased sister, Christa. But on the way down, after getting lost, weak and ill, he is taken in by the villagers of Korphe; after spending a lot of time there, getting to know the villagers and their problems, he decides to pay his debt to them – and to honour Christa – by building a school.
He does this, after much difficulty raising money and managing all sorts of problems in Pakistan. He is generously helped by Jean Hoerni, who demands to see a photograph of the completed school before he dies – and who then leaves him a million dollars for the Central Asia Institute, which goes on building schools, over 50 f them. It is a fascinating story, and well worth reading, but the writing is a bit dull, considering the excitements of the story (which include Mortenson being kidnapped by the Taliban). In the end, I was overcome by amazement at the energy and dedication of the man, who achieved so much others, including big humanitarian organisations, can only dream about. But the tedium of the prose and the weak-kneed admiration of Relin for Mortenson and all things Pakistani, and the cod philosophising over “so called primitive societies” teaching Westerners lessons about “living in harmony with the environment” and achieving greater happiness than we would ever manage (I paraphrase, but you get the idea) all got me down. So I kept the faith until the first school at Korphe was complete – a little over half the book – and called it a day at that point.
So, inspiring story, not told in an inspiring way; but still of great interest if you know the area or are concerned with development, especially in Central Asia.