Parvana's Journey


200 pages
ISBN 0-88899-519-9
DDC jC813'.54





Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is the
author of several books, including The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese
Women’s Lives, Kurlek and Margaret Laurence: T


Set in contemporary Afghanistan when it was still ruled by the Taliban,
this excellent novel affords a deeply moving look into a country
undergoing, for the last two decades, chaos such as North Americans have
rarely known.

Thirteen-year-old Parvana and her father have been trying to earn money
to support the family. In order to do this, Parvana has had to pose as a
boy. When her father dies in a mountain village, leaving her alone, she
buries him and sets out through the rugged terrain to find her mother
and married sisters. But to travel through Afghanistan she still has to
pose as a boy, and Parvana fears she might be conscripted into the
Taliban army.

Afghanistan is in turmoil, with land mines buried nearly everywhere.
But Parvana, wise beyond her young years, has extraordinary courage.
Along the way, she encounters an abandoned baby in a deserted village,
and later two other children younger than her (a girl left behind by her
family and a boy with only one leg) who join with her in search of help.
Tired and hungry, they reach a camp for internal refugees. But even
there, they go for days without food after a truck convoy has been

In 1999, Deborah Ellis spent several months visiting Afghan refugee
camps in Pakistan and Russia. The stories she heard there inspired The
Breadwinner, her first book about a family living in Afghanistan under
Taliban law, and this sequel. In Parvana’s Journey, the hardships seem
too harsh for children younger than 10 to survive. But endure they do,
and the trials bind them together into a family group. The novel has
inspiring characters, suspense, and a riveting plot. “Horrific” is
an accurate description for many parts of a story I was reluctant to put
down. Highly recommended.


Ellis, Deborah., “Parvana's Journey,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024,