Moving far away is difficult.
Keeping your faith in a new place is hard.
Soccer… is wonderful.
The Somali migration to Lewiston, Maine, that began in the early 2000s saw the arrival of newcomers who had almost nothing in common with its residents – not race, not religion, not food traditions, not clothes styles. Yet this influx of families has revitalized the formerly dying factory town; everything’s not perfect, but many positive things are happening there.
And the love of soccer? Seems to be universal, a language that every cheering fan and would-be goalie understands. Will it be enough to keep things calm at Chamberlain High? You’ll have to read this new novel yourself to find out what happens to Saeed and his family, to Tom and his family, to the town whose mayor asked refugees to stop inviting their relatives to live there.
My Recommendation: Saeed’s soccer is brilliant, his smile is blinding, his skin as black as the Somali refugee camp that his family had fled. Maybe Saeed could help Chamberlain High win against their biggest rivals, thought Tom, but winning over the townspeople to accept the Somali Muslim immigrants would be a far larger battle.
Tom’s small Maine hometown wasn’t thrilled at the secondary migration of Somali refugees from the big cities like Atlanta where they’d been placed on first arrival in the US. Most of these new students spoke very little English so the school counselors are frazzled.
Luckily, soccer has its own global language, so once Tom can get Saeed’s mother to sign his permission slips, the team will have their best chance ever against fancy Maquoit High School. Too bad Saeed’s sister Samira took an instant dislike to Tom (everyone likes Tom, especially the girls).
Too bad that Tom went along with his lifelong pal Donnie on a prank where they were caught redhanded. Now it’s hours of community service (bet that stoner doesn’t follow through) along with soccer practice which lands Tom at the community center, tutoring a young Somali boy, meeting a cute college girl, and wondering if he really wants to stay with his affectionate but less-than-intelligent girlfriend.
What an amazing soccer season! Thanks to Saeed and the other Somali players, the team becomes a fast, accurate scoring machine. But the final games against their arch-rivals fall during Ramadan, when the Muslim students fast until sunset, so the team’s dream may drift away. Tom’s relatives continue to argue about the refugees, Donnie goes one goof too far, and a white supremacist group plans a rally in Enniston.
How much tension can a small town take before something snaps?
How can very different religions co-exist peacefully?
How can one small action change everything?
Tom thinks things through as he accepts these new players who came from Out of Nowhere, trying to make up his own mind about how the past impacts the future during his tumultuous senior year. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.