Her narrative of the unending Syrian war from 2011 through 2016 and into 2017 offers page after page of extraordinary reporting and many flashes of exquisitely descriptive prose. But it is the characters around whom the story is built who make the book unforgettable, as Abouzeid threads together their stories of hope and loss in a country where 'the dead are not merely nameless, reduced to figures. They are not even numbers' ... Today there is, as Abouzeid’s title tells us, no turning back, and one reads the book’s final pages with no hope of a happy ending. But one also reads them with the conviction that Abouzeid’s remarkable journalistic and literary work has given us, at last, a book worthy of the enormous tragedy that is Syria.
Abouzeid relates the drama of this chaos in gripping prose ... The subtitle of No Turning Back offers life, loss … and also hope. But Abouzeid herself makes the case for optimism very faint ... Even Abouzeid, clinging tenaciously to a brighter future for Syria, admits that there isn't much hope for such an outcome. Any such hope, the reader is left to infer, will come from people like the ones living their lives in this book.
Rania Abouzeid excels in describing the scene and depicting the characters. Her words transport readers to the regime’s prison cells, to life under bombardment and to secret meetings of opposition fighters in the moonlight of summer nights in northern Syria ... In Abouzeid’s account, we mainly hear from male characters, the majority of whom embraced armed rebellion and joined extreme Islamic groups, which underplays the wider roots of the uprising. Only in a few scenes do we see the roles of female characters.
Abouzeid, an award-winning journalist based in Lebanon, has provided a masterful, intense, and often personalized account of this seemingly endless conflict ... This account could have benefited from a presentation of views from the government side, but Abouzeid’s altogether intimate, revealing, and moving accomplishment is essential to any attempt to understand this tragedy.
Abouzeid carefully disentangles the significance of complex and shifting political, ethnic and religious identities involved, and provides expert historical and political context, maintaining strict objectivity and taking no sides. She explains her criteria for believing a story, and how she came to be deceived in her earlier reporting of certain incidents ... This may be the most intimate and epic account yet for the ongoing tragedy of the Syrian civil war.
That the book does not give equivalency, false or otherwise, to the government’s side of the story does not diminish its objectivity or value. The author brings us the stories of people who, though capable of speaking for themselves, are not often heard from and might as well be voiceless insofar as audiences outside the country are concerned ... Readers without familiarity with the many strains of opposition to the Assad regime are likely to emerge from this book a touch less confused—though without much cause for hope, either. An eye-opening account of those who 'played a pivotal role in the revolution’s trajectory.'”
The author skillfully sets forth the complex political and military rivalries between those supporting and opposing the regime, discussing their backers from Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as the foreign and homegrown fighters who became ISIS. In notes at the beginning and end, Abouzeid details her intense and perilous reporting process. She was banned from the country, she explains, soon after protests began, but nevertheless spent roughly three weeks a month clandestinely entering Syria for the next several years. Her grueling reportage is a formidable accomplishment.
Rania Abouzeid’s No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria explains how the impossible happened, and how it went so tragically awry. Abouzeid, a well-known journalist, spent six years traveling in Syria...gathering the material for this compassionate account of the Syrian uprising and civil war ... Abouzeid’s characters cross ideological, religious, gender, age, and class divides. They all experience the upheaval and violence. From bewildered civilians to active participants and rebels: all are changed, but differently ... The detail with which Abouzeid charts the transformation of civilians into rebels, fighters, Islamists, and radicals is one of the most powerful accomplishments of this book.