Mud City by Deborah Ellis is the third and final installment of The Breadwinner Series. You may read my review of The Breadwinner and my review of Parvana’s Journey. I thought this was a great series. If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend them. As a brief recap the first book The Breadwinner is about a little girl Parvana in Afghanistan during the height of Taliban rule. Her family has lost everything including their home. Her father has been thrown in prison and her mother and sister are not allowed to leave the house as they no longer have a male escort. Parvana is still young enough that she cuts off her hair, dresses in boy’s clothes and tries to support her family. In Parvana’s Journey, the second book, we find Parvana wandering through Afghanistan. Her father has just died and she has no idea where her mother and siblings are. As she crosses through the wilderness she bands together with other children and they all try to take care of each other as they search for her family.
In Mud City, I expected the story to be about Parvana’s experiences in a refugee camp. I was completely surprised when instead the story was about Shauzia, Parvana’s best friend with whom we are introduced in the first book. In fact, Parvana isn’t even in this book. I have never heard of an author changing the main character in a series before. Has this been done? I thought it was really strange. Since I had become so attached to Parvana, I really did want to hear the rest of her story. If Deborah Ellis wanted to share Shazia’s story, I only wish that it would have been done by Parvana and Shauzia reconnecting. Having said that, I still really liked this book.
We find fourteen year old Shauzia and her dog Jasper in a refugee camp in Pakistan having left her miserable life in Kabul, Afghanistan behind. She carries with her a magazine cutout of a field of lavender flowers and dreams of one day visiting France and seeing the ocean. She decides that the only way to make her dream come true is to leave the refugee camp and instead earn money on the streets. Living on the streets is dangerous, scary, adventurous, and she even spends a night at the local jail. She discovers that navigating her way through a country full of Afghan refugees is not easy and that her dream of escaping her miserable life may well be out of her hands.
To tell you the truth, I was sad to have this series come to an end. Deborah Ellis was a wonderful storyteller who sheds light on the plight of children in war-torn countries particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan. Another book of hers that I would like to read is Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak. I discovered this one listed at the back of Tasting the Sky, A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat which I also just finished.