cover image Mahtab's Story

Mahtab's Story

Libby Gleeson, . . Allen & Unwin, $9.99 (181pp) ISBN 978-1-74175-334-9

With timely immediacy, this novel highlights the plight of a family fleeing Afghanistan after persecution by the Taliban, narrated by 12-year-old Mahtab. Once her father determines that the family will immigrate to Australia, they embark on a harrowing journey (“Two weeks of fear, of the ice stone in the belly, of holding your breath, of whispering, of blocking from your mind everything you know or have heard of what they can do. They. Taliban”). The action occurs in fits and starts, with escapes punctuated by long periods of waiting. Mahtab sometimes seems more a lens than a real actor in the drama. However, she becomes more compelling when she exerts her influence, such as when she sacrifices an heirloom bracelet to help fellow refugees and when she lies to her younger siblings about hearing from their father, to reassure them after he forges ahead and leaves the family in Pakistan. The issues and plight that Gleeson's (Half a World Away ) novel highlights may be more memorable than the characters sketched within. Ages 9–12. (Oct.)