By John Grisham
When you’ve written 35 novels and are working on a streak of 43 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, you can write about whatever you want. That’s probably the simplest way to explain why John Grisham’s latest is a basketball story and doesn’t feature a single courtroom scene.
It’s not the first sports book for Grisham, of course, but it’s the first set in the big-time world of college hoops. Samuel Sooleymon, nicknamed Sooley, is a 17-year-old playing on dirt courts in his native South Sudan when we first meet him. Growing like a weed and with an infectious passion for the game, soon he’s in Orlando playing on a team of traveling Sudanese all-stars, showcasing his skills for college coaches.
“Sooley” follows the familiar Grisham playbook — short chapters, plenty of foreshadowing, and a rapid-fire prose that’s easy to read and hard to put down.
Grisham seems to enjoy moonlighting as a sportswriter. There are entire paragraphs that read like AP game recaps.
The secondary plot of the novel focuses on the family Sooley leaves behind in Sudan. When a rebel group burns their village, they join millions of fellow refugees fleeing the country, eventually finding food and shelter in a Ugandan camp. They’re never far from Sooley’s mind as his basketball career takes flight in America and the juxtaposition of his fame and celebrity with his family’s plight back home is the heart of the story.