This is the story of Doaa, an ordinary girl from a village in Syria, who in 2015 became one of five hundred people crammed on to a fishing boat setting sail for Europe. The boat was deliberately capsized, and of those five hundred people, eleven survived; they were rescued four days after the boat sank. Doaa was one of them - her fiancé Bassem, with whom she had fled, was not; he drowned in front of her.
Melissa Fleming, the Chief Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, heard about Doaa and the death of 489 of her fellow refugees on the day she was pulled out of the water. She decided to fly to Crete to meet this extraordinary girl, who had rescued a toddler when she was nearly dead herself. They struck an instant bond, and Melissa saw in Doaa the story of the war in Syria embodied by one young woman. She has decided to tell Doaa's story - the dangers she fled, and the journey she risked to escape the conflagration in her homeland. Doaa is the face of the millions of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons who risk everything as they try to escape war, violence and death.
Doaa's story will revolutionize how we see the thousands of people who die every year in search of a home. It will squarely face one of the greatest moral questions of our age: will we let more people die in boats and trucks, or will we find a way to help them?
Melissa Fleming is Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Her TED talk on the subject of refugees has been viewed more than 1.3 million times. She writes regularly for the Guardian.
Melissa Fleming's tale of a young Syrian woman's search for peace and safety is a book written for our times. Fleming captures the unremitting fear, the crushing despair, and the glint of hope for a better life that drive families to risk everything and sail the treacherous seas. On every page, loss and hope tangle. On every page, the human toll of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time is painfully, heartbreakingly brought home. This is an emotional read, at times painful, but it is above all a poignant tribute to hope, to resilience, and to the capacity for grace and generosity that dwells deep in the human heart — Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner
In a few years, when people will look back at our current time of conflicts, dislocation, and displacement, the story of Doaa al-Zamel - and of those she saw die, and of the new life she saved? . . . will stand out as one of its defining narratives — Bruno Giussani, European director, TED
it should enable us to see beyond the cold weight of the numbers, and into an individual's own warm and vivid story . . . If A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea does push more people into action and solidarity, then it will have done vital work; the most important work, perhaps, that a book can do right now . . . Doaa al-Zamel is both ordinary enough to compel sympathy, and extraordinary enough to be unforgettable — Natasha Walter, Observer
Fleming's account is as gripping as it is moving — Financial Times
Written by an official in the UN's refugee agency, this deeply affecting book recounts the story of a young Syrian, Doaa al Zamel . . . Fleming brings a moral urgency to the narrative. Doaa is now safe in Sweden, but Fleming pointedly asks, 'Why is there no massive resettlement program for Syrians - the victims of the worst war of our times?' — New Yorker
Fleming deftly illustrates the pain of those who choose to leave Syria . . .[She] recounts their narrative with compassion and without melodrama, and her book is ultimately a story of hope . . . The message is to try to humanize one young woman, to tell her tale so that the migrant crisis does not become a bunch of nameless, faceless people fleeing a war but human beings with families, with needs, and with desires — Newsweek
Stories like Doaa's, presented in the form of excellent storytelling, thrilling surprises, and powerful characters, do have an impact. This is a must-read book for everyone who is debating the refugee crisis, because it boils the entire war in Syria down to one family, one young woman: Doaa — New York Journal of Books
[Doaa's] inspiring story is urgently required reading — People
A Hope More Powerful than the Sea poignantly illuminates some of the reasons why our fellow humans embark on such perilous journeys to reach Europe . . . One can only hope that by sharing Doaa's story, her remarkable courage, Fleming will help people better understand why so many are prepared to risk so much in order to reach relative safety — Times Literary Supplement