Review Blog

Feb 13 2017

A hope more powerful than the sea. The journey of Doaa Al Zamel, written by Melissa Fleming

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9781408708446
(Age: Secondary) Highly recommended. This is a true story that, in this world today, should be read. If we are to understand the wave of refugees fleeing their own beloved countries, leaving behind families who cannot escape, then we need to know what is going on. We need to know what causes such an upheaval in the lives of these people that they leave home in any way they can, hoping to find a place that will accept them, even though they face the unknown.
This is a story of ordinary people, who are not simply greedy, nor just discontented, who love their own country and culture. Yet, deeply disturbed by changes in their world that affect their daily lives, by deprivation, alienation or severe discrimination, they find that they have little choice but to flee. We become aware of the changing world of the family, the Al Zamels, in this story, from the daughter, Doaa, who relates how their daily lives were lived, how the loving family was so central to their lives, describing how they begin to be aware of the social changes that signal upheaval.
Heartrendingly told, this story, of unscrupulous offers promising escape if enough money is paid, reveals that sometimes the refugees are abandoned, left on the shore of an unknown place, or on broken-down old boats that break up in a storm, when they are left to die. Having taken much of their savings, or their borrowings from family, the people who set up the escape so often put the refugees in vastly over-crowded old boats, some of them even lacking crew. Even worse, we read that some of the 'arrangers' kill the desperate families after taking their money, or put them on boats where they are thrown overboard. This is a disturbing story yet one filled with courage and hope, and this hope, we discover, is indeed 'more powerful than the sea'.
Towards the end of her story, Doaa writes of finding a new life, after the warmth of the welcome they received from ordinary families, both in Greece and later in Sweden, that signals the beginning of the healing that will occur. It is an uplifting story, told with passion and inbued with a strong sense of justice.
Liz Bondar

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