Now Is the Time For Running by Michael Williams
|Now Is the Time For Running|
First published in South Africa as The Billion Dollar Soccer Ball, Now Is the Time For Running is a novel about the courage, bravery, despair and hope that are required by ordinary, everyday adults and children in the face of xenophobia (the fear of people from another country).
This is a compelling story about two brothers, Deo and Innocent. It starts with a dusty game of football being played in a Zimbabwean village using an improvised soccer ball (a football). It’s around 2007 and the arrival of soldiers at the soccer game sets the novel on a dramatic and heartwrenching path.
Deo is fourteen and finds himself faced with a smattering of the biggest and scariest decisions of his life. They’re made even tougher because he shoulders responsibility for Innocent, his twenty-four year old brother who suffered brain trauma at birth. Armed with only a broken soccer ball and a cereal box, Deo and Innocent set off on a journey. They know their lives are in danger and they need to seek refuge. But they don’t know where they’re going or how they’re going to get there.
Now Is the Time For Running is a hopeful story but it is also a deeply sad and horrifying story. There all sorts of wild and often horrible obstacles encountered by the characters in this story. But there is also a lot of goodness where you’d least expect to find it. Apart from telling a good story, this is one of those novels that might prompt some readers to go and find out more about refugees or even get involved in existing social projects. Or maybe start a new one. Or just have a little think.
This is a book that could hook readers of soccer fiction. Soccer is a central theme and it provides key turning points in the story. It is also a much loved game in southern Africa. But for those who aren’t football fans, fear not. The story is really about Deo and Innocent’s journey for refuge. And it’s a real pageturner. The last section of the book was my least favourite but it signposted me to a couple of important things I didn’t know about so I am very pleased I read them (I’m not saying what they were because that would be a plot spoiler!).
I think this fictional story (based on interviews with African refugees) will tug at the hearts and minds of most teenagers, youth workers and many other adults. I think I should start a new tag for the blog: books that made me cry when I wrote the review.
The book cover warns that it is not suitable for younger readers. There is horrific violence and abuse but it is not graphic and sometimes it is simply inferred.
Tamarind, 2012, London, paperback
This copy: received for review from the publishers
Other reading suggestions:
For younger readers wishing to read fiction that explores issues with similar themes about democracy and refugees, I would point them towards The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo.
For older readers who are interested in genocide, refugees and human rights, Never Fall Down is the story of a teenage boy living through the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge killings in Cambodia. Never Fall Down is a much starker read than Now Is the Time For Running.
Another teen novel about contemporary Zimbabwe is Jason Wallace’s Out of Shadows. We haven’t read this but it did win the Costa in 2010.
The younger brother caring for an older brother theme also runs through My Brother Simple by Marie Aude-Murail. But that is a very different book.