by Ellis, Deborah
In the final instalment of her acclaimed Afghanistan trilogy, Deborah Ellis picks up the story of Parvana's fellow "tea boy" Shauzia. Separated from Parvana at the end of the first book in the series, The Breadwinner, Shauzia has been trying to make her way to the sea in order to fulfill her dream of reaching France and meeting her friend at the top of the Eiffel Tower. As Mud City opens, however, she has only gotten as far as an Afghan refugee camp near the city of Peshawar in Pakistan. Bristling under the domination of the well-meaning but bossy Mrs. Weera, the spirited 14-year-old escapes to the city in the guise of a boy, along with her loyal dog. In Peshawar, she becomes just one more homeless and destitute child, raiding the garbage bins of fancy hotels and begging at the local pizza restaurant. When a man tries to abduct her, the commotion results in her imprisonment in a Pakistani jail and Shauzia's fate seems to be sealed. But a Western couple saves her (minutes before the communal shower would have revealed her true sex) and in their care, she begins to rethink her dreams.
Deborah Ellis's spare and matter-of-fact style mirrors Shauzia's own blasť approach to her situation. There are moments of real pathos here (as when the Westerners discover Shauzia's emergency cache of leftovers under her bed), but this novel lacks the emotional intensity and moral grandeur of the best of the three, Parvana's Journey. Though feisty and at times tragically blinkered, Shauzia is simply not as interesting a character as the stoic Parvana. For readers interested in the plight of Afghanistan's children, however, the entire trilogy is a must-read. --Lisa Alward
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