#1 NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • John Grisham takes you to a different kind of court in his first basketball novel. Samuel “Sooley” Sooleymon is a raw, young talent with big hoop dreams—and even bigger challenges off the court.
“Hard to put down ... the pages turn quickly ... building to a climax that won’t leave readers doubting whether this is a John Grisham novel.” —Associated Press
In the summer of his seventeenth year, Samuel Sooleymon gets the chance of a lifetime: a trip to the United States with his South Sudanese teammates to play in a showcase basketball tournament. He has never been away from home, nor has he ever been on an airplane. The opportunity to be scouted by dozens of college coaches is a dream come true.
Samuel is an amazing athlete, with speed, quickness, and an astonishing vertical leap. The rest of his game, though, needs work, and the American coaches are less than impressed.
During the tournament, Samuel receives devastating news from home: A civil war is raging across South Sudan, and rebel troops have ransacked his village. His father is dead, his sister is missing, and his mother and two younger brothers are in a refugee camp.
Samuel desperately wants to go home, but it’s just not possible. Partly out of sympathy, the coach of North Carolina Central offers him a scholarship. Samuel moves to Durham, enrolls in classes, joins the team, and prepares to sit out his freshman season. There is plenty of more mature talent and he isn’t immediately needed.
But Samuel has something no other player has: a fierce determination to succeed so he can bring his family to America. He works tirelessly on his game, shooting baskets every morning at dawn by himself in the gym, and soon he’s dominating everyone in practice. With the Central team losing and suffering injury after injury, Sooley, as he is nicknamed, is called off the bench. And the legend begins.
But how far can Sooley take his team? And will success allow him to save his family?
Gripping and moving, Sooley showcases John Grisham’s unparalleled storytelling powers in a whole new light. This is Grisham at the top of his game.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
John Grisham is a master of high-stakes drama. With this powerful novel, he takes on some of the most vital questions of our time through the story of a desperate young refugee, Samuel “Sooley” Sooleymon. Sooley gets the chance of a lifetime when he’s invited to travel from South Sudan to a basketball camp in the United States. But while the talented 17-year-old is playing for scouts, his village back home is decimated by a raging civil war, leaving his family broken and stranding Sooley thousands of miles away. This is so much more than a sports story. We felt every pang of hope and fear that drives Sooley to make it into the NBA so that he’ll finally have the resources to save the people he loves. Grisham paints a vivid portrait of the horrors of war, but also of the unbreakable human spirit. Sooley is a deeply moving read about the power of hope in the face of even the worst tragedy.
Grisham (A Time for Mercy) shoots an airball in this sappy novel about a South Sudanese teen's journey from his impoverished home to the world of American sports. Samuel Sooleymon, 17, described as the best basketball player in his village of Lotta, is invited to try out for South Sudan's national basketball team amid the civil war's relative peace. Despite undeveloped passing and shooting skills, Sooleymon's natural athleticism appeals to the national team's coach, Ecko Lam. With Sooleymon away in the U.S. for an exhibition game, a rebel rampage through Lotta is described in grisly detail, with the fate of his family uncertain. When Sooleymon learns of the attack, he's determined to return home, but Lam convinces him there's nothing he can do. Eventually, he accepts a full scholarship at North Carolina Central, where he's nicknamed Sooley, dedicates himself to practicing, and determines to gain attention from the NBA so he can earn the money needed to bring his family to the U.S. As Sooley's star begins to rise, though, Grisham tosses in a jarring tragic episode, and clunky foreshadowing and thin characters, such as Sooley's love interest, don't help. This is a disappointing outing from a writer capable of much better.
A Great Read
This is my first John Grisham book and I enjoyed it.
I felt that the ending went against the nature of the titular character some but it only means that the book was enjoyable enough to INVEST in the characters…
This story is mesmerizing and agonizing all at once. The angst I felt over the plight of Sooley’s family and his goal in helping them, and at the same time trying trying to navigate a new life in America kept me at the edge of my seat.
I am not a sports fan and do not follow any favorite teams, and yet Mr. Grisham introduced me into the seductive world of professional basketball. I could not put the book down until it was finished. Thank you, Mr. Grisham for writing an incredible and unforgettable story. I hope aspiring athletes and agents can glean lessons learned from “having too much fun”.
A fantastic read, keeping you interested throughout the book. Ups and downs with a unique surprise and a great ending!!