Mud City


164 pages
ISBN 0-88899-518-0
DDC jC813'.54





Reviewed by Elizabeth Levin

Elizabeth Levin is chair of the Psychology Department at Laurentian


Following The Breadwinner (2000) and Parvana’s Journey (2002), this
third book in Deborah Ellis’s trilogy about young women in Afghanistan
focuses on Parvana’s best friend, 14-year-old Shauzia, who lives in a
Pakistani refugee camp called “Mud City.”

Having fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, Shauzia longs to
escape her situation. Unhappy with the rules of the mud-walled Widow’s
Compound at the crowded camp, she leaves for the city of Peshawar,
hoping that there she can earn the money to finance a trip to France.
But living conditions in Peshawar aren’t much better than at the camp:
she soon finds that she is just another homeless beggar fighting for
rupees, bits of food, and odd jobs. Her only salvation is the constant
companionship and safety provided by her dog, Jasper.

One day, while Shauzia is begging outside a restaurant frequented by
foreigners, a man offers her some money and then tries to put her in his
car. When she protests, the police come. But Shauzia is the one who is
arrested, because the money her assailant claims she stole is found in
her pocket. In jail, the guard steals all the other money she has
managed to save. Just when it looks as if she will be exposed in the
jail showers (since her arrival in Peshawar, Shauzia has been
masquerading as a boy in order to survive) some Americans, whose
children had befriended her dog while she was begging, arrive at the
jail to rescue her. Taken in by the family, Shauzia begins to recover.
But one day when the family is out, she allows some beggars into their
compound and gives away all the family’s food and supplies. This
endeavour lands her right back in the refugee camp. Now more experienced
and grown up, she takes on a more active role in the resistance to the

Many young teens will find this story inspiring as they follow
Shauzia’s evolvement into a street-smart, resourceful survivor who
wants to both change her situation and fight for her beliefs (those who
have read the first two books in the trilogy will have an even better
understanding of her character). Young readers will also learn about
Afghanistan’s recent history and the Taliban’s restrictions on
women. Mud City is a gripping novel. Highly recommended.


Ellis, Deborah., “Mud City,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024,