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)