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

As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Book Review Club: The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen #review

Tuscan Child book cover
The Tuscan Child
by Rhys Bowen
Adult Fiction
Lake Union, 2018

I’m a big fan of Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, so when I saw that she had written a “story within a story” one of my favorite literary devices, I had to buy the book.

The Tuscan Child takes place alternately in 1944 and 1973, and the narrators are a father and his daughter.

Hugo Langley, a British pilot, is shot down over the Tuscan countryside in December of 1944. He’s the only survivor of the plane crash, but his leg is badly injured. He is discovered by Sofia Bartoli, a young woman from the nearby village of San Salvatore. She helps him to hide in the ruins of a nearby monastery and brings him food and whatever medical supplies she can find.

Then the action moves to 1973 when Joanna Langley goes back to her ancestral home to deal with her father’s sudden death. Joanna is in a bad place herself, but grateful for the small legacy Hugo left her. Among his things she finds a letter to Sofia that was returned after war in which he declares his love for her and makes a cryptic reference to their “beautiful boy” being hidden. Intrigued and without work, she uses his legacy to travel to San Salvatore to find out what happened back in 1944. Once there, she meets Sofia’s son Renzo, but finds that the past mystery is not easily uncovered, and that someone wants it to stay buried. Someone who is willing to kill to keep his or her secrets.

I really enjoyed this book. I felt sympathy for Joanna’s predicament as well as Hugo’s. The subplot involving Paola Rossini, who rents a room to Joanna and teaches her about Italian cooking, is charming and heartwarming. And then there’s the handsome but mercurial Renzo. Can he be trusted or not?

If you enjoy Susanna Kearsley’s books, you will probably enjoy The Tuscan Child. In the end, the main villain was a bit obvious, but there was an interesting twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming. The pace is fast, the characters engrossing, and the description of both countryside and food is lovely.

(My apologies to regular readers of my blog for my absence this last month. I’m happy to report that my remodel is almost finished, and I should have more computer time in future.)


As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy