Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

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Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams
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Genre: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A harrowing and powerful novel about two brothers fleeing Zimbabwe. By turns horrifying, sad, funny and uplifting, it's a fantastic achievement. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Tamarind
ISBN: 1848530838

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In a remote village in Zimbabwe, Deo is playing football with his friends while his brother Innocent looks on. Innocent takes a bit of looking after - deprived of oxygen during birth, he's not quite like other children and Deo is fiercely protective of him. Then the soldiers arrive, looking for a delivery of food aid and the traitors who welcome help from the evil Americans, and they destroy the entire village. Now orphans, the two boys have no choice but to flee to South Africa in the hopes of finding their long-lost father. Since their only possessions are Innocent's bix box and Deo's football (stuffed with worthless billion dollar notes), it won't be easy...

Now is the Time for Running has a three-part structure. Act I shows the horrors of the Zimbabwean regime and sees Deo and Innocent flee to South Africa. Act II covers the reception refugees are given in a country with problems of its own. Act III is all about healing and paths forward. And the whole thing, rather beautifully, begins and ends with football - if there is one thing that connects boys in almost every country and can break down barriers, football is it.

The whole thing is extremely powerful and it wrings every possible emotion out of its readers. The football is as exhilarating to read about as it is for Deo to play. Innocent's "innocent" conversation is often laugh-out-loud funny. Some of the scenes in Zimbabwe involving the soldiers are horrifying. Sometimes, tears come at the sheer sadness of it all and at the courage of two little boys. And sometimes, the weight of the awfulness sits like a stone in your heart. But the book is truthful, not hopeless. It ends on an up note and with the positive message that we're all brothers and sisters, no matter where we come from. Quite right, too.

This one comes highly recommended by Bookbag. It's easy to read but tremendously affecting. And it talks about important issues - Zimbabwe matters, but Now is the Time for Running has something to say about how we treat refugees taken in by this country, too.

You might also enjoy Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace, a gorgeous coming-of-age novel set in Zimbabwe in a time of political upheaval. I'd also suggest In Darkness by Nick Lake, an intense and affecting exploration of Haiti through the eyes of a boy in the present, caught in the rubble of the great quake, and a 19th century revolutionary leader. Anything by Elizabeth Laird will also appeal if you enjoyed Now is the Time for Running.

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