"Urgently required reading." —People
"Deeply affecting... Fleming brings a moral urgency to the narrative." —The New Yorker
"Fleming deftly illustrates the pain of those who choose to leave Syria...and her book is ultimately a story of hope." —Newsweek
Adrift in a frigid sea, no land in sight, just debris from the ship's wreckage and floating corpses all around, nineteen-year-old Doaa Al Zamel stays afloat on a small inflatable ring and clutches two little girls—barely toddlers—to her body. The children had been thrust into Doaa's arms by their drowning relatives, all refugees who boarded a dangerously overcrowded ship bound for Italy and a new life. For days as Doaa drifts, she prays for rescue and sings to the babies in her arms. She must stay alive for them. She must not lose hope.
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea chronicles the life of Doaa, a Syrian girl whose life was upended in 2011 by the onset of her country's brutal civil war. Doaa and her fiance, Bassem, decide to flee to Europe to seek safety and an education, but four days after setting sail on a smuggler's dilapidated fishing vessel along with five hundred other refugees, their boat is struck and begins to sink. This is the moment when Doaa's struggle for survival really begins.
This emotionally charged, eye-opening true story that represents the millions of unheard voices of refugees who risk everything in a desperate search for the promise of a safe future. In the midst of the most pressing international humanitarian crisis of our time, Melissa Fleming paints a vivid, unforgettable portrait of the triiumph of the human spirit.
This poignant tale of survival and loss gives immediacy to the plight of Syrian refugees. In a spare, unobtrusive style, Fleming, head of communications for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, profiles Doaa Al Zamel, who as a teenager fled her homeland of Syria. Fleming's skillful writing brings new vividness to Al Zamel's dramatic story, already well known from media accounts. The book provides a quick sketch of Syria's complex civil war, which erupted in 2011, making it critical for Al Zamel's family to escape to Egypt. There, she married another displaced Syrian, and in 2014 they sold their remaining valuables to pay smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean. "It is better to have a quick death in the sea than a slow death in Egypt," she reasoned. Conditions on the decrepit ship became deadly when they were rammed by another boat. Floating on a plastic inflatable ring, Al Zamel survived the ordeal and saved the life of a small child, but suffered the heartbreak of seeing her husband die. This book amply demonstrates why she has since become a symbol of hope for other refugees. Fleming should be congratulated for bringing Al Zamel's inspiring and illuminating story to the page.