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No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  712 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Extending back to the first demonstrations of 2011, No Turning Back dissects the tangle of ideologies and allegiances that make up the Syrian conflict. As protests ignited in Daraa, some citizens were brimming with a sense of possibility. A privileged young man named Suleiman posted videos of the protests online, full of hope for justice and democracy. A father of two name ...more
Hardcover, 378 pages
Published March 13th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company (first published March 5th 2018)
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Chris I need to listen to this interview. This is a terrific book - well written and the story is obviously one that needs to be told. And yes, this is epic…moreI need to listen to this interview. This is a terrific book - well written and the story is obviously one that needs to be told. And yes, this is epic!(less)

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May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best narrative nonfiction book written on the Syrian uprising to date, and the best about any war since Anand Gopal’s “No Good Men Among the Living”. The book interweaves the lives of a number of Syrians from different backgrounds, whose lived experiences make up a microcosm of the civil war as a whole. The author has language skills and intimate access to Syrians that puts her reporting above the vast majority of what has been written by others. I was also amazed by the incredible ...more
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-east
This book tells the story of the Syrian Civil War through portraits of Syrians. Author is an Arabic speaking journalist who was able to win the confidence her subjects. The interviews show the life before the war, the person’s role in the war and their reflections on it 6-7 years into it.

It starts and ends with a businessman whose family benefited from the rule of Bashar al-Assad. Through Suleiman you learn the horrors of Assad’s prisons and how their conditions conflict with the regime’s descr
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very brave Arabic-speaking journalist followed Syrians -- families, poets, activists, politicians, Islamists, soldiers -- for six years, as their country blew up. She gives plenty of context, takes no sides, and lets them speak. This is the book on Syria I'd recommend to anyone who wants to understand what's been happening there.
Edward Nugent
This is no easy read. Like most Americans, I have only a cursory familiarity with the history and culture of Syria, much less the place names and human names. Trying to keep track of each character and the events was daunting, until I realized that detail was not essential to understanding the story of the tragedy that is modern Syria. It is a book that should be read for that story alone. The suffering of Syrians will be a worldwide issue for years, if not generations, to come. This book puts h ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The war is still ongoing in Syria, in some pockets of the country. It is therefore an enormous challenge to write about this complex conflict without the benefit of hindsight. However, I believe that Rania Abouzeid did an absolutely amazing job at providing some key reference points for the reader to navigate through this all consuming at times contradictory period. She does so by detailing the day to day experience of Syrian war through the eyes of selected individuals, some very young some mat ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book should be considered essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the war in Syria. Perhaps no other non-Syrian journalist has had the access and put in as much depth of research as Rania Abouzeid, a Lebanese-Australian journalist who has been covering the war from the beginning of the uprising, from inside and outside Syria. The book weaves together the narratives of several of the characters she met in that time, including an opposition activist jailed by the regime, a nine-y ...more
Chris Roberts
Mar 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
Let them be eaten alive.

Child is War
It is counterintuitive in working towards the goal of preserving a race,
to instruct children to hide when threatened,
because when they reemerge,
there will be a new oppression,
the orphans chant at the enemy, "Let them be eaten alive."

Chris Roberts, God to the Mentally Unhinged (Shell Shocked)
Scott Cox
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
The Syrian civil war began in March of 2011 as an outgrowth of Arab Spring protests erupting throughout the Middle East. Freelance journalist Rania Abouzeid began clandestinely interviewing Syrians from various factions and documenting their stories. Her stated goal was “not to judge, and not to turn characters into caricatures, but to present information about an individual’s motivations, worldview, and actions to help readers understand him or her and arrive at their own conclusions.” She incl ...more
Joe Ruvido
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
No Turning Back book gives a human element to the countless news stories, analyses, reports and documentaries I have watched and read since the Syrian Revolution started in 2011. Abouzeid tells the story of the revolution turned Islamic insurgency from almost all relevant angles (my one criticism is that there was no mention of the Kurds in the book). That said I cannot fault the author for the bravery she has showed in finding and telling these stories. As she notes in the afterward and through ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Abouzeid did kind of an amazing job explaining the incredibly complex subject that is the Syrian conflict (war, genocide, events, civil wars, revolutions?) -- see I don't even know what to call it and she wrote a book about it!

Anyway, there are a lot of Arabic names and places and it all kind of jumbles in my English speaking Western brain, but Abouzeid followed a handful of key people from all sides and by interweaving their personal stories also told a larger story. She gave the same treatment
A fascinating book that tells of life in wartime Syria through the voices of several different Syrians including a young girl whose family life was disrupted by the revolution, both violent and non-violent revolutionaries, a privileged young professional whose eyes were opened to the injustices abounding under the Regime of al-Assad and others. It was eye-opening to hear about a way of life so different than my own, and so uncertain. We are blessed to live on land that has not seen war for so ma ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, audiobooks
This is a tough one for me to review. The subject matter is hard - rage-inducing, heartbreaking, nauseating. What the Syrians people have gone through in the last decade is absolutely appalling, and the failures of the international community to help in any meaningful way are shameful. I don’t think you can read this and not be horrified, angered, or gutted.

Unfortunately, in addition to the difficult subject, the writing is textbook-dry. I had to switch to audiobook because I struggled to focus
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reading this book it is difficult not to be reminded about (propaganda) stories of Iraqi soldiers pulling babies from incubators, as well as the Libya's and Yemen's destruction by foreign intervention. Millions of Syrians suffered from this proxy war but Rania's account is sadly one sided. It is unclear whether she was compelled to use that one sided narrative in order to be embraced by western media and institutions. The author reported only from areas known to have been under the control of al ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: syria, mena
This is an incredible book. Almost unbelievable how Rania Abouzeid has been able to get in contact with those key actors, gain their trust and be able to visit them and follow them throughout all these years. In extremely volatile and dangerous conditions, she has been sneaking in and out of Syria, on all sides, including extremist groups, without really getting into trouble. A miracle. At times I found it awkward to realize the author was there, when writing in the first person, in the midst of ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
An extremely graphic, difficult read, but probably a necessary one for people like me who were too young/naive to pay attention to the start of the war in Syria. I’m... more horrified than I thought I could be.
Chelsea Lawson
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the author’s note, Abouzeid says that if nothing else, she hopes she has conveyed that the people chronicled in this book from all sides of the Syrian war/uprising/crisis/“events” from 2011 to 2017 are “three-dimensional human beings.” She has done exactly that.

“Despair can sharpen religiosity. Blood and desperation and trauma can radicalize it.”

I felt so much sadness and longing reading this book. If only Assad’s regime would have reformed back in the early days, so much loss and destructio
Great reporting from Abouzeid on the front lines of the war in Syria. She follows the fortunes of ten to twelve individuals both rebel and Assad regime supporters from 2011 to 2016. Two of the most effective portraits are Suleiman and Ruha. The first is an insurance company manager in his 30s from Rastan who decides to take up the rebel cause but is captured by the mukhbaraht and spends two plus years in various brutal prisons. Ruha is a nine year old girl whose father is a rebel leader. Her fam ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating account of a diverse group individuals' experiences in the Syrian war. At times, the narrative was a bit hard to follow, but it's definitely worth pushing through the denser parts in order to understand the big picture of this tragic story. I've followed the war loosely since its inception, so I was aware of many of the major events and actors in the war, but my understanding is now much more developed and holistic. Aboudzeid managed to paint a pretty comprehensive picture ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ferocious reporting that details the shifting dynamics of the war in Syria without ever forsaking the individuals who wage it and are repeatedly victimized and marginalized by it. Rania Abouzeid makes recent (since 2011) events in Syria understandable by allowing individuals to tell their stories and pledge their allegiances across the murky landscape that is Syria.

I feel as though some of the fog surrounding Syria has lifted, at least for the half-dozen years during which Abouzeid made repeated
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I want to thank the Goodreads Giveaway program as well as the W.W. Norton Co. for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

If you want to know the story of Current day Syria, this book is a good place to start. Rania Abouzeid has done a great job taking you through from the peaceful demonstrations of early 2011, to the crackdowns and the Civil War itself. What makes this book, is that she does not do her reporting at the 10.000FT. Level, she lets the Syrian people tell the story.

Through many
Joy H.
Apr 08, 2018 marked it as keep-in-mind
Added April 8, 2009.
(Published March 13th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company )
I saw this book discussed on CNN with host, Fareed Zakaria.

The Amazon website gives the following concise summary:
"This astonishing book by the prize-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid tells the tragedy of the Syrian War through the dramatic stories of four young people seeking safety and freedom in a shattered country."...
"Rania Abouzeid brings readers deep inside Assad’s prisons, to covert meetings where foreign states and
Bonnie Walker
I think this is an important book about the Syrian conflict, how it got started, what it is all about. However, I disagree with reviewers who thought it was well written. I thought it could have used a good editor to make the narrative flow. The story is very complex, which is important, because we see how difficult it was and is for the US to figure out what role to play, or if there is any role to play. What I concluded is that removing the current president would result in a take over of the ...more
This is a very enjoyable humanist account of the Syrian uprising and civil war. Abouzeid implicitly critiques all oppressors in her work: above all, the Assad regime and its backers, but also sectarian/Salafi-jihadi oppositionists to Assad (such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State) and the international powers who essentially conspired against the revolution by refusing to do anything meaningful about Bashar out of fear of empowering the very Salafi-jihadists whom Assad liberated from Sedna ...more
Ivan Otto
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books
This book is a hard read, is heart wrenching to learn about all the atrocities that real people experienced and continue to do to this day. This book humanizes a conflict that is represented in the media like some arabs are fighting the government with some terrorists mix in within. I loved that it shows many sides and not only the "good" side. Finishing this book I can't help feeling hopelessness for a revolution that cannot win and all the people who are only seeking for their country to be fr ...more
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, which rewards the book that most evokes a “sense of place”.
This book covers the 5 years of the Syrian uprising which began in 2011. The author uses actual characters and follows their activities throughout that time. It was very helpful in giving me an idea of what has actually happened in Syria.
Lisa Settje
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m a fan of history and sociology so this book of “stories”about the Syrian revolution was insightful. The author did an excellent job of selecting stories “pivotal to the revolutions trajectory” Her goal was not to judge but to “present information about individuals motivations, worldview and actions to help readers understand and arrive at their own conclusions.” Therefore, I was able to understand intent without judgment.
elizabeth tobey
I listened to this on Audible for Read Harder's category "A book by a journalist or about journalism" and listening was intense and also difficult because there are many names, groups, and places to keep track of - which is a good thing. It's a long, storied fight that continues to this day and more people should know about it.
Faith 09
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very eye opening and informative.
Dosia Paclawskyj
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must-read on the Syrian tragedy. Exceptionally well researched and comprehensive in its coverage.
Michelle Hopkins
Excellent! It took a while to get into it but ultimately well worth it.
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Rania Abouzeid has won the Michael Kelly Award and George Polk Award for foreign reporting, among many other prizes for international journalism. She has written for The New Yorker, Time, Foreign Affairs, Politico, the Guardian, and the Los Angeles Times. A former New America fellow, she lives in Beirut, Lebanon.

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