Gripped by haunting magazine images of starving refugees, Elsa has dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was a teenager, of leaving her humble working-class Boston neighborhood to help people whose lives are far more difficult than her own. No one in her family has ever escaped poverty, but Elsa has a secret weapon: a tube of lipstick she found in her older sister’s bureau. Wearing it never fails to raise her spirits and bolster her confidence. With lipstick on, she can do anything—even travel alone to war-torn Afghanistan in the wake of September 11.

Violent nights as an emergency room nurse in Boston did not prepare Elsa for the devastation she witnesses at the small medical clinic she runs in Bamiyan. As she struggles to prove herself in the male-dominated culture, a tube of lipstick she finds in the aftermath of a tragic bus bombing leads her to a life-changing friendship with Parween, a young woman who has lost her adored young husband to the Taliban’s treachery. In Parween, Elsa finds a kindred spirit, fiery, generous, and determined to fight back against the restrictions that plague the women of her small country.

Together, they risk their lives to rebel against the Taliban and bring opportunity to the people of their village. But when they must stand up and fight for their own survival, Elsa discovers her only hope is to unveil the warrior within.