Book Review Club: A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival
by Melissa Fleming
Biography (for adults and young adults alike)

hope more powerful than the sea

A friend recommended this book to me in conjunction with an AAUW (American Association of University Women) program about refugees in Greece.

The book tells the story of a young Syrian woman, Doaa Al Zamel. It begins with a story of her fear of the water, to the point that she refused to go swimming with the other children. One day, an older cousin threw her in the water and she nearly drowned. That phobia stayed with her.

A shy teenage girl, Doaa is probably the last person anyone would have expected would morph into a revolutionary, but she did. The Syrian civil war started in her home city of Daraa after teenage boys painted revolutionary slogans on the walls of their schools. Instead of treating the incident as a teenage prank, Bashar Al Assad’s regime acted with typical authoritarian tactics, including arresting and torturing the boys. A spark was lit and protests broke out. Doaa was very brave in taking part in the protests, despite the danger to herself. Her father disapproved of her actions, in part because of the danger to her, but also the danger to the family at large. As the situation in Daraa worsened, he took the family into exile in Egypt.

In Egypt, Doaa met a young man named Bassam and they fell in love. The situation for Syrian refugees was deteriorating in Egypt and so the young couple made the fateful decision to pay smugglers to get them across the Mediterranean to Europe, a truly dangerous undertaking. There, Doaa was once again faced with her deepest fear of drowning. What happened to her is a story of love, loss, courage and compassion, as well as a story of how criminals take advantage of those desperate to escape danger in their homelands.

I recommend the book to Americans who don’t know much about the Syrian conflict and the difficulties faced by the refugees. Our news media has done a poor job of educating the public about what is going on over there. Reading a book about one refugee’s experience gave me a better view of the situation. I found Doaa’s story compelling, dispiriting and ultimately inspiring.

About the Author:

Melissa Fleming leads communications for the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). For her job, she travels to war zones and refugee camps to give voice to the millions of people forcibly displaced from their homes. She told one remarkable refugee story on the TED stage about an extraordinary young Syrian woman who, with the baby she saved, was one of the only survivors of a boat wreck that killed 500 refugees. That story became A Hope More Powerful than the Sea.

You can find out more about Melissa at Goodreads.

Linda McLaughlin

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5 thoughts on “Book Review Club: A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea

  1. Interesting! The author looks to be particularly well placed to tell this story. And I agree with you; I don’t think we know enough about the Syrian conflict. Thank you for reviewing!

  2. Wow, what a story, and all the more powerful since it was inspired by true personal experiences! These refugee stories are important for building empathy for refugees. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • You are so right, Sarah. Many Americans don’t understand who the refugees are and assume they are bad people instead of victims.

  3. Two Syrian families have been sponsored to live in our small town in Coastal BC. I’m sure the transition to a place where few speak their language and weather is so different makes life challenging. Both families are now settled and are becoming part of our community life. – Margy

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