More sad news on 'Three Cups of Tea' with death of co-author David Oliver Relin

David Oliver Relin's family said that Relin was hurt, emotionally and financially, by the controversy over fabrications in 'Three Cups of Tea,' the book he  co-authored with Greg Mortenson.

David Oliver Relin recently finished a book – scheduled for publication this spring – about two doctors who are working to cure cataract-related blindness in the developing world.

More sad news to report on “Three Cups of Tea": David Oliver Relin, the journalist and author who became famous as the co-author, with Greg Mortenson, of “Three Cups of Tea,” died Nov. 15 near Portland, Oregon of an apparent suicide. He was 49.

Relin’s family said the author suffered from depression and was hurt, emotionally and financially, when controversy arose over fabrications in “Three Cups of Tea,” which recounted how former mountain climber Mortenson started building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan through his charity.

The book’s accuracy was called into question last year when a "60 Minutes program" reported on its numerous fabrications as well as financial discrepancies in Mortenson’s charity, both of which were detailed by author Jon Krakauer in his book, “Three Cups of Deceit.”

Mortenson denied wrongdoing, though he acknowledged that some of the events in the book were compressed for storytelling purposes. Relin did not respond publicly to criticism, though he did hire a lawyer to defend himself in a federal lawsuit that accused the authors and publisher of defrauding readers. The suit was dismissed earlier this year.

Ironically, the very assignment that shot Relin to fame – “Three Cups of Tea” would go on to sell 4 million copies and draw widespread support for Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute – also brought him much grief and may have led to his eventual downfall.

From the start, Relin spoke publicly about how Mortenson, who was often unreachable traveling in remote areas, should not have been named a co-author. Elizabeth Kaplan, the agent for the book, told the New York Times that the relationship between the co-authors was difficult from the start.

The legal, emotional, and financial difficulties that followed allegations of fabrications further damaged Relin, who already suffered from depression.

Relin had established himself in the 1990s as a journalist specializing in humanitarian stories about people in need. It appeared he had tried to move on from the “Three Cups” controversy; Relin had completed a new book on two doctors who are working to cure cataract-related blindness in the developing world, scheduled for publication by Random House in spring 2013.

He is survived by his wife, Dawn; his stepfather Cary Ratcliff; and his sisters Rachel Relin and Jennifer Cherelin.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to More sad news on 'Three Cups of Tea' with death of co-author David Oliver Relin
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today