Review: Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

 

Title: Now is the Time for Running

Author: Michael Williams

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

ISBN: 978-0316077903

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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. But when tragedy strikes, Deo’s love of soccer is all he has left. Can he use that gift to find hope once more?

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.

Review:

Now Is The Time For Running is a heartbreaking book.  Thinking of the horrible way that people treat each other is sobering and distressing.  I don’t know how Deo, a 14 year-old boy, was able to keep struggling to survive.  His life in Zimbabwe with his mother, grandfather, and brother is hardly an easy one.  They don’t have much other than each other.  Deo has a homemade soccer ball, and he lives to play the game in his dusty village.  His life is shattered when soldiers come to visit, destroying everything that he has in just few awful moments of blood and senseless violence.  Some of the villagers voted against the ruling Zed party, and those treasonous votes, in a sham of an election, have brought death to everyone.

Deo and his older, mentally challenged brother, Innocent, flee from the only home that they have ever known.  They have nowhere safe to go.  They have no relatives to care for them.  In an effort to save them both, Deo decides that they will make the dangerous border crossing to South Africa, a terrifying and perilous journey that almost gets them killed.  There are crocodiles, lions, hyenas, and the scariest predator of them all – men with guns – to evade.  Once in South Africa, they face a different kind of hell – xenophobia from native South Africans and people who won’t hesitate to take advantage of them.

Based on current events, including the 2008 riots in Alexandra, the life of a refugee is not kind to Deo or Innocent.  The book is so gripping because it is set against a backdrop of recent events.  It’s hard for me to think of a child being put through these terrible challenges.  I don’t think I could have survived the crushing poverty or the devastating heartache chronicled in this book.  Deo is forced to age beyond his years, and he must also live with the consequences of his decisions.  Guilt almost destroys him, but ultimately, soccer saves him when he has hit rock bottom.  The game gives him the strength, and most importantly, the hope, to continue living.

Grade: B+ leaning towards an A-

Review copy provided by publisher