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

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  409 ratings  ·  78 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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Joe Ruvido I just finished the book...the bravery that she showed going in to the war zones to get these stories is absolutely epic. I truly find it hard to…moreI just finished the book...the bravery that she showed going in to the war zones to get these stories is absolutely epic. I truly find it hard to believe that she was able to do that. I didn't know that she was on Fresh Air, thank you I will check that out! (less)

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4.34  · 
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 ·  409 ratings  ·  78 reviews


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Murtaza
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
Sara
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.
Louise
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
...more
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
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)
Laura
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
Sewella
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
Christine
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
...more
Rachel
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
...more
Kassisdia
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
Wim
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
Mel
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.
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
Madelaine
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
Jeff
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
...more
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
...more
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
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.
Jannah
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would say that this is a fair account of the war. She does not take sides and it describes atrocities by every faction in the Syrian war. It makes me feel lucky that I was living in Damascus for the first 3.5 years of the war and not in any other city as to be honest we were cosseted by comparison and did not suffer even a fraction of what those she writes about suffered elsewhere. That is not to say that I did not lose many friends and students to the war but still mild by comparison. I think ...more
Josh Duxbury
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
A long, complex and fascinating read. Goes without saying but the bravery of the author is incredible in getting these stories. I feel it really took me about half the book to understand the relevant sides and each character's perspective given the many names and complex style of writing. Content wise I went in blind, I didn't really know a lot about the Syrian civil war beyond Assad vs rebels, but now feel I understand a lot of the factors at play during the uprising, the different factions, an ...more
Cassandra
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was interested in learning more about Syria and heard the author on NPR discussing her book so I decided to give it a try. It’s an excellent book but honestly very hard to follow. Lots of names and places and the author bounces between stories (all interelated but hard to follow none-the-less) making it hard to keep up. I actually did this as an audiobook and would recommend anyone interested in this book do the same. It makes it a little easier with the names and locations. Even though it was ...more
Michael
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ruha was a nine year old little girl, but as we learn, much older than her nine years. “We were fated to learn about things children shouldn’t learn about,“ she said. “I know my parents were trying to hide things from us, but they could not. Everything was happening in front of us.”

“No Turning Back” is an excellent book of firsthand, investigative reporting. It is not just another reporter’s “war journal,” but the story of a group of individuals who recounted to the author their experiences and
...more
Martin
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Remarkable journalism by Rania Abouzeid, who spent years in Syria and Lebanon reporting on the lives of the people involved in Syria's civil war.
Max Metral
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have never read a book where the amount of work and sacrifice to make it was so clear. You should read this book next. It’s stunning and depressing and enlightening and ongoing.
diwili
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, these stories. Listened on audiobook, paused a lot to look up various noms de grrr and re-Levant terms (it's Hazzm Movement, not Hasm Movement). From protests to prisons, coming of age to surviving air raids, and the nuance that comes with choosing jihad in civil war, when options abound of who to fight for or against, the threads of Suloimon, Muhammad, Roha, Abu Azzam, and each of their extended families are stories well worth listening to.
This book is more personal history than comprehens
...more
Scott
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book by Rania Abouzeid is great because: it is hard-nosed journalistic reporting from within the Syrian conflict, following individuals and families reflecting many sides (secular rebels, Islamists who aren't Al Qaeda, Islamists who are Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Syria & Iraq, Alawites, etc.). Because of who Abouzeid is, she was able to fit in and pass through communities and establish trust with people all over Syria. She slipped through porous borders, passed through checkpoints s ...more
Kaamil Ahmed
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not just one of the best pieces of writing on Syria but one of the best book-length pieces of journalism I've read. She's physically present for so many of these events, yet it can take a long time to realise that. It contrasts massively with other books where journalists are simply recounting what they've been told and somehow seem to constantly remind you of their presence.
Therese
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had only a cursory familiarity with the history and culture of Syria until 13 year old Hamza al Khateeb's burned, mutilated and tortured body was given back to his parents. He was arrested after allegedly writing "Doctor, get out" (a reference to Bashar alAssad, an opthalmologist) on a school wall in Dara'a in 2011. Then I startef following the steady drumroll of events, from unarmed peaceful marches, to armed regime response, to more vociferous demonstrations and even more brutal retaliation, ...more
Michael
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
No Turning Back is a very somber read, tracing the lives of multiple members of the Syrian resistance from the beginning of the protests in 2011 to 2016. Abouzied does a masterful job with the narrative, weaving their stories together, keeping the characters clear and well-developed. If her credentials weren't impeccable, you'd almost believe the book was made up, the stories are so engaging. The access she had from moderate secular protestors to Al-Nusra boggles the mind. If you'd like to know ...more
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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.