Sooley (Book Review)

Sooley is the new book from John Grisham. This time around we’re heading to a different court, as we meet Samuel ‘Sooley’ Sooleyman, a seventeen-year-old from South Sudan who loves basketball.

Samuel lives in a rural village with his family, the realities of war are never far away and every day is a struggle. Yet Samuel hits the dirt court day in and day out, and his raw talent catches the eye of a coach who is taking a youth team to America.

Determined to follow his dream Samuel makes the difficult decision to leave his family and participate in the tournament overseas. Now Samuel must face new challenges, if he is to have any chance to succeed he must practice hard to hone his skills. Unfortunately, while he’s away the war comes right to his doorstep and Sooley must now learn to keep his head in the game even though his heart is in another country.


The story includes detailed accounts of the basketball games, so if you’re not into basketball or sports you may find yourself struggling with these specifics. But if you can get through that you will find a heartbreaking look at the terrible situation that is very real in South Sudan. The shocking reality of the refugee camps and the struggles the refugees face every day to survive (from sleeping arrangements to food and medical attention) are sharply highlighted.

You will also find that Sooley is a very relatable character, someone who you will be cheering on from the sidelines, consistently the hardest worker in the room and always ready to face new challenges with a big smile on his face.

Sooley was a bit of a slower read for me and it must be noted that I wasn’t a fan of the ending at all, but it still includes the strikingly detailed writing that I know Grisham for and I am grateful for the chance to have been given an awareness and insight into the conflict in the South Sudan and the harsh struggles the country’s people face.

Sooley is available for a recommended retail price of R355.

Thanks to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sharing this book with me.

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