- Now Is the Time for Running
Soldiers arrive in fourteen-year-old Deo’s rural Zimbabwean village and, on the president’s orders, brutally massacre all of the residents, including Deo’s mother and grandfather. Deo escapes only because he was off looking for his mentally impaired older brother, Innocent, who had been tortured and left for dead the night before. Deo and Innocent make an epic journey from Zimbabwe to South Africa only to end up homeless in Johannesburg. There the brothers are living under a bridge with a motley group of other transients when race riots erupt; after days of searching, Deo finds Innocent murdered. Eighteen months later, Deo, living on the streets and sniffing glue, is recruited to participate in the Street Soccer World Cup; the guidance of the coach helps Deo and his teammates, many of whom are also refugees, figure out who they are and where they are going. Williams’ novel is based upon his research on the 2008 xenophobic attacks that took place in South Africa, which then led him to explore the backstories of the many refugees settled in Johannesburg. Deo’s story is wracked with tension, and the brutality of the many events described herein will remain with readers. His complicated relationship with Innocent adds considerable depth to the plot; though ten years his junior, Deo is responsible for the safety of his childlike brother, and this challenge proves enormous when the two brothers are in situations of extreme danger where Deo must both master the complexities of getting out of the circumstances and keeping his brother calm and on task. While some readers may find the seemingly hopeful ending a bit of a stretch, most will cheer for Deo’s victory in the face of profound tragedy. An informative author’s note is included.