Don’t you just hate school uniforms? Well, imagine living in a country where all women had to follow a very strict dress code. The system consisted of covering your face and body so that you were not seen; this covering was called a burqa. The Taliban were a militia that took control of the small, landlocked country called Afghanistan. They enforced very severe conducts upon women and girls, including not allowing them to work, attend school, or even go outside. The paperback ‘Parvana’s Journey’ by Deborah Ellis deals with these issues.
Most of this book is set in the afghan wilderness, where there is no food in sight, except for the occasional animal or stream that may trickle by. Mine fields also littler no man’s land. A land mine is a bomb planted in the ground, which explodes if stepped on. The main characters in this tale consist of Parvana, Asif, Leila and Hassan. Parvana is a young girl, at the age of thirteen years. She never gives up hope and is courageous. She steals eggs from a man’s chickens for food, even though she knows that it is wrong.
She grabs a baby boy and names him Hassan, even though he is not her responsibility and she could barely take care of herself. Asif is a young boy about ten years old. Toward Parvana, he is stubborn and annoying. He does not listen to Parvana, and criticizes many things she does. For example, while changing baby Hassan’s diaper; he remarks that she is doing it wrong because he was being fussy. Then, silently and patiently, he takes Hassan and does it the right way. This is what makes him stubborn, because he thinks he knows everything, even though sometimes he does not.
Parvana also stumbles upon a young girl named Leila, who is eight years old. Leila is very smart and helpful. She sticks with Parvana and provides her with assistance. The conflict in this story is man versus nature because they’re living and wandering throughout the Afghanistan wilderness. They need shelter, food and water. Discovering items to suit their needs is not easy at times. Parvana’s mother, her sister Nooria and Maryam, and her brother Ali were supposed to go to Mazar-e-Sharif before the Taliban took control of the city.
Parvana and her father go on a journey to find them. Even after her father dies, she does not hope. She encounters days, sometimes even a week or two without food or water. She takes a baby boy under her wing because his mother had perished in the bombings of the village they inhabited. Soon after she meets Hassan, the baby boy, Parvana reaches a cave where she meets Asif. They had a typical sibling relationship, even though they were not genetically related. The three children struggled to find food and take care of each other. Then they reach Green Valley were they meet Leila.
In comparison to the wilderness, Green Valley is a paradise. There was food everyday and a canyon close by. However, all good things end. Green Valley was bombed and the four children returned to wander unknown territory. Hassan, along with the rest, suffer from dehydration and malnutrition. Then they come to a Red Crescent station an internal refugee camp. Red Crescent is the Muslim equivalent to Red Cross. There, Hassan stays in a nursery until he is once again well. When planes drop parcels of food over the camp, people broke out into fights.
Leila spotted many more peppered in the mine fields. She’d say that the land mines ‘liked her’ because she’d never gotten hurt before. Despite the past, this time she got hurt. Leila died because of the explosion of one of the bombs. An outraged woman came to Parvana’s side. Amazingly, Parvana knew this woman. It was her mother, whom lived on the other side of the camp. This is where the story ends. I enjoyed reading Parvana’s Journey’. I found it entertaining, a book I did not wish to lie down. Where would she get food? Will she continue her journey without her father?
Will she abandon Hassan, Asif and Leila because they are not her responsibility? Finally, will she ever find her family? These questions popped up in my head while reading this novel. Respectfully, my uncertainties were acknowledged throughout the novel. From previous readings, I know that the Taliban were a very horrible group. Other novels were much more graphic. For instance, ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini. ‘Parvana’s Journey’ deals with the social conditions of Afghanistan. In my opinion, this book is for mature children. Themes in this novel include death and hope.
Younger children may not understand this novel the way it needs to be understood. They may also interpret the events in this book in a juvenile fashion. Therefore, it would be a waste of curriculum time. I could not empathize with Parvana at many times during her tale. Much of what she experienced in Afghanistan would not be experienced in a first-world country like Canada. From this novel, I learned to never give up hope even in the darkest hours of your life because there is always a shed of light at the end of the tunnel. In conclusion, ‘Parvana’s Journey’ is a very insightful and interesting novel.