The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

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The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Published by Groundwood
ISBN 978-0192752840

Set in recent times, this is a story with a message for us all. Young Parvana and her family find their lives thrown into turmoil when the Taliban take over Afghanistan.

All schools are closed and strict religious rules are imposed that prevent women from leaving the house without a man, or at the very least a letter of permission from a man in her family. Parvana's highly educated mother finds the restrictions very difficult, as does her elder daughter, but it is less of a problem for Parvana who is only 11 years old.

She is allowed to go to the market with her father, where she sits on a mat at his stall while he offers a letter-writing, translating and reading service.

One day Parvana's father is taken away by soldiers without explanation, and the family is left helpless, with the only other male being a baby. They cannot legally leave the house. Will they starve? How will they get food and water?

Parvana must become the family's "breadwinner". She disguises herself as a boy and sells a few precious belongings in the market, but she must find another way to earn money, and quickly. She is befriended by another boy - or is it a girl? - and together they find unpleasant but paid work.

Her sister decides to accept an offer of marriage, and she and her mother leave for another city. Parvana has to wait behind and hope for the return of her father, and face the almost-impossible task of reuniting their family.

How this all happens makes for an exciting, thought-provoking story and a terrific read.

Review by The BoB Committee

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