One More Mountain
One More Mountain
“No one can help me,” Damsa said. “You can’t help me.”
She teetered at the very edge of the roof of the ruined building.
“I really can.” The policewoman stood on the roof behind her. She took a step toward the girl.
“It’s no good,” Damsa said. A shuffle of her feet sent stones tumbling down three stories to the broken concrete chunks below. “My father wants to kill me.”
“Yes, I imagine he does.” The policewoman took two more steps forward. “There are men who want to kill me, too.”
She held out her hand toward Damsa, and actually smiled.
“But they’ll have to find us, first.”
After being promised in an arranged marriage, 15-year-old Damsa runs away, prepared to do whatever is needed to hide from her father. Police officer Shauzia takes her to a refuge named Green Valley, a school/shelter for girls and women who are endangered since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in 2021. The refuge is run by Parvana, a young woman who understands the dangers from her own experiences. Parvana is hoping to get her son Rafi and her younger sister Maryam on a flight out of the country so they can eventually get to the United States. When the Taliban comes knocking on the door of Green Valley, asking for the man in charge, Parvana realizes she has only three days before they return and make life miserable for the girls and women in her care. And so another flight begins - that of the residents of Green Valley to the mountains, somewhere safer and away from the Taliban’s usual patrols.
This novel is filled with strong female figures such as Parvana and her good friend Shauzia who help so many endangered women and girls. In fact, all females but the very smallest children, have a role to play in the book, including Damsa who learns that she is far more than the spoiled little rich girl of her father’s household. Readers will see examples of strength and resolve as well as touching scenes of care and love within the refuge.
The men in the story who are not members of the Taliban are also excellent role models. Asif is determined to get Maryam and Rafi to the outbound plane at Kabul airport. When fate intervenes, Rafi is happy to give his ticket to a young boy who is even more needy than he is and then to return and find his mother and help her continue her work.
One More Mountain is not long, but it is exciting and filled with adventure as well as frightening moments which will have readers on the edge of their seats. This novel deals with very recent history, and many readers will remember the scenes last year of Afghanis clinging to the last planes to leave Kabul. They will recall stories of people wading through rivers of sewage to even get to the airport. They will remember seeing so many people who were so desperate to help themselves and their families to somehow find a better life elsewhere. Deborah Ellis takes her readers into the midst of all of this chaos through her characters, and we readers are right beside them, enduring the same sights and smells and terror thanks to Ellis’s vivid description.
Ellis has won many awards for her writing for young adults, and One More Mountain is the fifth novel in “The Breadwinner” series. While it is a wonderful stand-alone read, those who have read the preceding novels will have a deeper understanding of the characters and of life in Afghanistan. It should be noted that all royalties from the novel will be donated to the group Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Once again, Deborah Ellis shows her ongoing concern and support for Afghani women in a very tangible way.
Coincidentally I began reading this book exactly one year to the day of the fall of Kabul in August 2021 to the Taliban. Thank you, Deborah Ellis, for putting names and faces and emotions to this ongoing saga. It doesn’t change or ameliorate the news story, but it gives readers a more human insight into the events.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, Ontario.