When tragedy strikes, Deo's love of soccer is all he has left. Can he use that gift to find hope once more?
Just down the road from their families, Deo and his friends play soccer in the dusty fields of Zimbabwe, cheered on by Deo's older brother, Innocent. It is a day like any other ..until the soldiers arrive and Deo and Innocent are forced to run for their lives, fleeing the wreckage of their village for the distant promise of safe haven. Along the way, they face the prejudice and poverty that await refugees everywhere, and must rely on the kindness of people they meet to make it through.
Relevant, timely, and accessibly written, Now Is the Time For Running is a staggering story of survival that follows Deo and his mentally handicapped older brother on a transformative journey that will stick with readers long after the last page.
South African writer Williams (The Genuine Half-Moon Kid) delves deeply into the oppression, poverty, and xenophobia that plague so many nations in Africa in this gut-wrenching story of an outcast, soccer-loving teen from Zimbabwe. When 14-year-old Deo's village is ravaged by soldiers, he must flee with his older brother, Innocent, who suffered brain damage at birth, which has left him childlike and sometimes unmanageable. The obstacles the boys must overcome traveling with no shoes and little money, confronting a hungry lion in a wild game reserve, and repeatedly withstanding prejudice and mistreatment as unwanted refugees move the story along briskly, while its genuine and relatable characters keep it grounded. There is plenty of material to captivate readers: fast-paced soccer matches every bit as tough as the players; the determination of Deo and his fellow refugees to survive unthinkably harsh conditions; and raw depictions of violence ("The fear eats at us, burns us.... Nobody knows where the men with sticks and axes will be"). But it's the tender relationship between Deo and Innocent, along with some heartbreaking twists of fate, that will endure in readers' minds. Ages 12 up.