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"The story is fast-paced, gripping, heartbreaking, and hopeful."
"A harrowing tale of modern Zimbabwe... gripping, suspenseful and deeply compassionate. Williams, a renowned dramatist, gives readers compelling characters and, in simple language, delivers a complicated story rooted - sadly and upliftingly - in very real events"—Kirkus (starred review)
"Williams skillfully draws the plight of these refugee brothers with both suspense and sympathy, and readers cannot help but root for them in their quest to rebuild their broken lives... Williams joins Beverly Naidoo and Allan Stratton with this incisive portrait of sub-Saharan Africa, a compelling mix of suspense, sports, and social injustice."—Horn Book
"Williams tells his story simply and unflinchingly with depictions of tremendous violence, hard-fought soccer matches, and the loving bond between the brothers. Deo's narration provides an immediacy that is only compounded by the tale's fast pacing and suspense. The author gives readers complicated and compelling characters for whom they will cheer, cry with, and love."
A harrowing tale of modern Zimbabwe.
Soccer and his loving family got Deo, 15, through lean times in Zimbabwe. Now that Mugabe's soldiers have destroyed his village and killed most residents, the only family Deo has left is Innocent, the older, mentally disabled brother he's always looked after. When they join others fleeing to safety, Innocent's unpredictable behavior proves dangerous, yet also saves their lives. After a terrifying crossing of the Limpopo River and run through a lion-infested game preserve, they're rescued by a farmer and given paid work, food and shelter. South Africa is no safe haven for the refugees, however; local residents resent them. Leaving the farm only brings new dangers. Deo struggles to protect Innocent from a rising tide of xenophobia in which the newcomers are demonized by desperately poor South Africans who see them as a threat. Drugs offer an escape from the brutalities of violent crime and hatred, but there's another option: street soccer and a chance to compete in its international world cup. Originally published in South Africa, this 2009 novel is gripping, suspenseful and deeply compassionate.
Williams, a renowned dramatist, gives readers compelling characters and, in simple language, delivers a complicated story rooted—sadly and upliftingly—in very real events. (author's note, glossary) (Fiction. 12 & up)
The game is 2-2 when the soldiers come in their jeeps down the path to Gutu.
Javu shouts at me. “Kick, Deo, kick!”
I catch the ball between my foot and the earth and point. “The soldiers are coming,” I say. The boys stop playing. They turn to look at where I’m pointing.
The president must have sent them. Perhaps he has heard how hungry we are? Grandpa Longdrop said that when there was no more sadza, no more cassava, and when the people cried with hunger, then the soldiers would come. He says our president will never let us go hungry. Grandpa Longdrop is never wrong, but I have never seen soldiers bringing food.
“We can still win before they get here,” shouts Shadrack. “Kick, Deo. I’m open.”
I turn back to the game. Javu is out right, running wide. He has his hand up in the air, calling for the ball. If I pass to him, he will be blocked by Pelo the Buster. Javu could never get around heavy Pelo, the best defender in Masvingo Province. Better to make some Deo magic myself.
I scoop the ball up with my foot, flick it up in the air, and head it past Bhuku, who is the plodder of the group. Shadrack runs into the space to my left. This is going to be so easy.
The old one-two-three move. First touch to Shadrack, pushing the ball through the legs of Pelo, and then Shadrack sending it back onto my right foot. A quick glance up at Lola in goal, crouching now, ready to save my cannon shot—or so she thinks!
I move to kick the ball with my right foot but don’t. The reason? Pelo the Buster is sliding toward me in a slow-moving heap of knobby knees, thick shins, and big feet to collect the ball and to upend me. I toe the ball into the air, jump over his legs, and kick with my left foot as hard as I can. The ball sails past Lola’s open arms.
“It was too high!” she shouts. “Too high!”
“She’s right, Deo. That’s too high.” Bhuku points at the imaginary bar my ball supposedly sailed over.
Innocent goes mad on the sidelines. He runs up and down, with his arms outstretched like the wings of an airplane, screaming, “Goooaaal!”
“Innocent said it’s a goal,” I point out. “And he can see from where he’s standing.”
It is always like this. When Lola misses, then the shot is always too high. I’m not sure why we let a girl play with us, but nobody else wants to be goalie, so she’s useful. I like Lola and I don’t like her. She can be friendly one moment and moody the next. Innocent says that’s why he stays well away from girls—he can’t make up his mind whether he likes them or not.
“He’s your brother. Of course he thinks it’s a goal.” This is Bhuku again, all hands on hips, head cocked back as if he has been robbed in broad daylight.
“No use asking that one. He’s crazy,” says Pelo, tapping his temple with his finger. “What does he know about—”
Pelo the Buster does not have the chance to finish what he’s saying because he has to deal with my fist in his mouth. Nobody talks about Innocent in front of me. Pelo should know better.
Shadrack wraps his arms around me and pulls me away. Pelo is looking to give me some of my own medicine. I glare at him, daring him to come at me, but he looks past me. Pelo the Buster can beat me any day of the week, but right now something else is more important to him than busting my brains.
The jeeps carrying the soldiers.
I hear their engines. They are closer now.
The jeeps bump and rattle down the path where only cattle and villagers coming from Mlagisa Town and Embandeni Kraal have walked. There are five, maybe six, soldiers in each jeep. Some of them are in full battle fatigues; others just wear army waistcoats and belts with ammunition. They all carry guns, porcupine quills pointing at the sky. They hold their guns as if the weapons weigh nothing. As if they are not dangerous. But I know the terrible noise they can make, and I have seen a cow cut in half from a burst of one of those guns. The soldiers look at us but don’t see us.
These men have been all over Zimbabwe. They went to Zaka when the people cried with hunger, but now the people cry no more. They went to Chipinge when the people were angry from hunger, so angry that some of them were killed. Auntie Aurelia told us that her niece was one of those who were hungry. She did not say how she bled to death. Auntie Aurelia cried for seven days and then spoke about her niece no more.
The soldiers have been to faraway Kamativi, but no one speaks about what they have done there. And now they are here—in Gutu, my home.
The president said the people should not be angry. He said we were hungry because the white man was blocking the food from coming into our country. He is right about the problem of our food. We eat only enough to keep us hungry. I have heard my amai talk to Grandpa Longdrop about food that is supposed to come from America, but it has not come yet. My amai is a teacher in Gutu. She has been writing to a church in America and telling them about how we have no food here.
The truckers no longer come from South Africa. They no longer bring stuff to fill the shelves of Mr. Singh’s shop in Bikita. Grandpa Longdrop said that the road from the south is quieter than he can ever remember. Amai grows quiet, too, when he speaks of the road and its trucks. She has long since stopped going to the gas station, hoping that one special trucker might come back.
I have stopped thinking about him too. Amai doesn’t talk about him anymore, and it’s hard to ask questions about him. She cries or gets angry when I mention my father.
The soldiers drive past us. In the front jeep, a soldier sits with his boot up on the dashboard. He wears a red beret and sunglasses. He raises his hand, and the jeep stops with an angry spurt of dust. The soldiers standing behind him grip the crash bar. One nearly topples to the ground. The other jeeps pull up behind. Red Beret climbs out and walks toward us. His face is a mask. I notice his black belt, his revolver in a leather holster, his heavy boots, and his shiny sunglasses. I do not see his eyes but see myself twice in his glasses. I look small and bent out of shape, just a scrappy kid in blue shorts wearing a no-longer-white school shirt and standing in the dust.
“You’ve got a good left foot. Bring me the ball.” He speaks, but I do not move. I am watching both of my scared reflections in his glasses. My mouth is open. I close it and swallow.
Pelo runs over and hands him the ball. It is no proper soccer ball. It is a pouch of cow-leather patches sewn together with twine, stuffed with tightly rolled plastic.
Red Beret throws my ball into the air and kicks it. The ball folds into itself. The men in the jeep laugh. He turns toward them, and they shut up. This man has broken my ball.
I am only half scared now. The other half of me is angry. He didn’t need to break the soccer ball Grandpa Longdrop made for me.
“I hear there are dissidents in this village. Is that true?” His words are soft. I cannot trust them. In his question I can feel the metal teeth of a leopard trap.
I look blankly at him. If I say no, then he will know that I know what a dissident is, and then he will want to know what I know about dissidents. If I say yes, then there will be more trouble than I can even imagine.
“Who does your father vote for?”
This is a question I can answer easily. “My father does not live here. He lives on the road.”
“And your father?” He looks at Pelo.
“The president,” says Pelo the Buster.
The man snorts as if this was the wrong answer.
“Your game is finished.”
He steps on the ball, which lets out a long fart. No one thinks it’s very funny.
“I will speak to the people of Gutu and find out if what you tell me is true.” The soldier is talking to all of us now. I see us in his glasses. We all look the same: small, scared children in the red dust. He turns around and walks back to the jeep.
I look around for Innocent. He is no longer standing beside the pitch. He is scared of soldiers and must have slipped away when the jeeps arrived. I should go and look for him, but I cannot take my eyes off Red Beret.
He jumps back into the front jeep. We are forgotten now. He lifts his hand and makes a cutting gesture in the direction of our village. The driver puts his foot down, and the jeep jumps forward, causing the men at the back to grab hold of the crossbar.
As soon as the jeeps are gone, we scatter.
I throw away the rolled plastic from my dead soccer ball. The leather pouch is all I need to make a new one.
I must find Innocent. Soldiers make him nervous. And when he’s nervous, he talks too much, and then there could be trouble. Blood trouble.
Excerpted from Now Is the Time for Running by Williams, Michael Copyright © 2011 by Williams, Michael. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted June 10, 2012
This book is extremely well written and has an amazing story. Parts if it are based on the true stories of refugees in South Africa. When you're done reading this, you will definetly know a lot more about xenophobia (the fear of people from another place) and the xenophobic attacks that took place in South America during the year of 2008. There is some cussing, but few and far between. This book would be great book for anyone 12+, maybe a bit younger. This book was one of the best and opens up your eyes to the problems that occur in other parts of the world. Anyone and everyone should read this book; you won't regret it. Definitely worth it.
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 25, 2012
Posted July 29, 2013
Really good book. Changes the way you think about everything. I love soccer so that got me onto the book. Once you get past the fist three or four chapters, it gets really interesting. The book lets you in on the hard, painful life of living in Africa and crossing the border. In conclusion, this is one of the best books i've read. A 6 out of 5 stars!
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 3, 2013
This book is an interesting and has a captivating storyline. It highlights refugees of South Africa, and has underlying tones of grief, pain, and despair. I believe that this book opens up a perspective about refugees; it really opens up peoples eyes to see that there are people that are in extreme need of help. In this book government corruption plays a huge role. Soldiers are sent in the Gutu, which forces both boys Deo, and Innocent to flee to South Africa. With hopes and dreams, the boys set off on a journey. With hope, happiness, and a strong sibling bond, the boys put everything at stake. Deo, as the protagonist, is the sole embodiment of humanity, as he opens our eyes to what refugees face in South Africa.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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