Stronger than Death

How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

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Pub Date 01 Oct 2019 | Archive Date 07 Jan 2020
Plough Publishing, Plough Publishing House

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Think Mother Jones meets Mother Teresa, in Mogadishu.

Amid a volatile mix
of disease, war, and religious fundamentalism in the Horn of Africa, what difference could one woman make? Annalena Tonelli left behind career, family, and homeland anyway, moving to a remote Muslim village in northern Kenya to live among its outcasts – desert nomads dying of tuberculosis, history’s deadliest disease.

“I am nobody,” she always insisted. Yet by the time she was killed for her work three decades later she had not only developed an effective cure for tuberculosis among nomadic peoples but also exposed a massacre, established homes and schools for the deaf, advocated against female genital mutilation, and secured treatment for ostracized AIDS patients.

Months after winning the Nansen Refugee Award from the UN in 2003, Annalena Tonelli was assassinated at one of the tuberculosis hospitals she founded. Rachel Pieh Jones, an American writer, was living a few doors down, having moved to Somaliland with her husband and two children just months before. Annalena’s death would alter the course of her life.

No one who encounters Annalena in these pages will leave unchanged. Her confounding, larger-than-life example challenges our assumptions about aid and development, Christian–Muslim relations, and what it means to put one’s faith into practice. Brought vividly back to life through Jones’s meticulous reporting and her own letters, Annalena presents us with a new measure of success and commitment. But she also leaves us a gift: the secret to overcoming the fear that pervades our society and our hearts – fear of disease and death, fear of terrorism and war, fear of others, and fear of failure.
Think Mother Jones meets Mother Teresa, in Mogadishu.

Amid a volatile mix
of disease, war, and religious fundamentalism in the Horn of Africa, what difference could one woman make? Annalena Tonelli...

Marketing Plan

National publicity campaign, with coverage expected on NPR, PRI, Washington Post, The Christian Century, and other outlets.

Feature in Plough Quarterly magazine, circulation 10,000.

Promotions on Plough social and email channels, combined reach 100,000

Significant social media campaign

Advance reader copies mailing

National publicity campaign, with coverage expected on NPR, PRI, Washington Post, The Christian Century, and other outlets.

Feature in Plough Quarterly magazine, circulation 10,000.

Promotions on...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780874862515
PRICE $26.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 28 members

Featured Reviews

When you think about helping sick people in a foreign country, you think of missionaries living in foreign homes with lots of resources and they are physically separated from those whom they serve.
Annalena Tonelli grew up in Italy in the 1940’s and 50’s with people who remembered WWII. Her family tried to give her the best of everything, but Annalena was attracted to serving the poor people in her community.
Her life was changed when she traveled to Africa to work with Somali nomads who contracted Tuberculosis and would not admit that they had it, they just had a cough.
Annalena learned that TB could only be cured by giving the patients their medication and watching them take it. She lived as they did, she slept on a mat, wore long skirts and called God Allah so that they would not be offended by her as she was a Catholic.
She loved them all, she held the dying, comforted dying children and washed people who had sores all over and spat up blood, and said she loved them as Jesus did.
She lived in Somalia for most of her life, she dealt with unimaginable sickness, war and death, you will have to read the book to understand her life.

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I was very moved by this book. The author tells the story of Annalena Tonelli and her 34 years of service to the Somali people. I don't recall having heard about Annalena, maybe of an aid worker who was killed in 2003, but nothing specific.

I think everyone should know what it looks like to really love your neighbor as yourself, which is what Annalena did and in the greatest humility. The story of her time in Africa is beautifully written and gives a glimpse into the life of what I would call a saint, but which Annalena would not. Her work in making a difference in the lives of those suffering and dying from TB is amazing.

The book also gives an insight into the suffering of the Somali people , which appears to still be continuing today.

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Stronger than Death is Annalena Tonelli's story of living and working along with the sick, hungry, and destitute of Kenya and Somalia in the 1980's. She was a courageous, down-to-earth, and humble Italian woman who left her homeland and family to spend her life assisting the poor and eradicating TB from those countries.

Despite living near Annalena in Somalia, the author commits to know her better through letters, research, and visits with family members, friends, and former medical personnel who knew and worked alongside Annalena. More than one person relived emotional memories of their time with Annalena, referring to her as a 'saint' and the 'Mother Theresa of Somalia.'

Annalena's story is a powerful look at how the love, faith, and humanity of one person can overcome prejudices, fears, and violence in some of the most difficult areas of the world.

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Stronger than Death
How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

by Rachel Pieh Jones

Plough Publishing

Plough Publishing House

Biographies & Memoirs , Christian

Pub Date 01 Oct 2019

Stronger than death is the remarkable story of Annalena Tonelli, known as Somalia’s Mother Teresa, she unselfishly perhaps even heroically risked her life to help those in Somalia who were suffering from Tuberculosis, knowing that if she ended up with the disease it would ending a painful death.

Annalena fought amid a volatile mix of war, disease and religious fundamentalism in the horn of Africa, not knowing what a difference one woman could make, but determined to make a difference and she truly did, but it was not the disease that ended up killing her, she Was murdered, shot in the head.

Annalena was the only Christian performing routine checks on Tuberculosis patients in a country that did not exist. She wore no outward sign of her Faith. In this part of the world, the disease was looked at as a punishment for being a bad Muslim.

In the 1960’s Annalena Tonelli was a School girl in Forli Italy. Annalena would later decide that she could not fully give herself to helping the poor if she stayed in Italy.

I give Stronger Than Death five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!

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A wonderful story about a memorable human being
May 2019

How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa
by Rachel Pieh Jones
Coming October 2019

The author describes the unselfish life of Annalena Tonelli who dedicated all her life to helping the poor, and the accomplishments of her life's work, having in the background a no ending civil war zone.

It is an interesting book about an unselfish human being.

It is a story from what you can teach about faith and forgiveness and to not give up when life is hard on us.

I liked the story because it is a very well documented story (157 endnotes), an engaging story, and a pleasurable read.

Inside the book, I discovered that in the world there are things I didn't even know existed.

The author's writing style is realistic and objective without any flourishes.

I didn't expect to like the book so much.

I didn't like the cover of the book. It seems too dull, in my opinion. I think a more attractive book cover would have been better.

I recommend the book because I discovered a world I didn't know existed, it is an engaging story, and a pleasurable read.

I strongly recommend reading it.

Rachel Pieh Jones has written for the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, Runners World, and Christianity Today.

Rachel Pieh Jones also wrote Welcome to Djibouti: arrive, survive, and thrive in the hottest country on earth and Finding Home: Third Culture Kids in the World

How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa
by Rachel Pieh Jones

276 pages, Plough Publishing House.Hardcover $26.00 (USD)

This review can be found at
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I am always looking for books that show how ordinary people overcome odds that are against them at every turn. Annaleana Tonelli, a young girl who serves and treats tribesmen in Somalia, concentrating on TB when almost everyone said it was an impossible task. She proved that with the right plan and mindset, the impossible can be accomplished. Acting as a representative or no group, religion, or faction, she assimilated into the Somalian people, lived as they did, and by doing so, so found herself in the hearts of the people she was treating.

While other more wealthy and well-formed groups attempted to do the same thing she was accomplishing, she proved that her way was the only way it worked. This major fact put at odds with powerful people and the warlords of fighting tribes.

Annaleana never gave up, continually believing that she could and was making a difference.

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Deeply moving and challenging

Raw and honest. What makes this book so remarkable is that while Anna Tonelli achieves incredible things, she is always portrayed a real human being. She does not fit any convenient mould and thankfully Rachel Pieh Jones does not try and make her either. Anna’s life, her dedication to the poor are utterly inspiring and deeply challenging. She displays unbelievable courage and determination in fighting disease in a very hostile environment, while genuinely loving and honouring people. Jones does not feel the need to sugar coat some of Anna’s more difficult decisions but rather allows questions to remain open. As they often tend to do in real life.
Anna Tonelli’s story will stay with me for a long time, and I very much appreciate the way Rachel Pieh Jones tells it.

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This is a story of amazing courage, strong women, people who were willing to sacrifice their lives to help others. I can't stress enough that this book is a must read for anyone who wants to serve as a missionary, or helper with UNICEF or something like that overseas in 3rd world countries. It's one of those books that you won't put down, that you won't want to stop reading and might stay up all night reading! (That's what I did!). I actually purchased this book before finding in on NetGalley, so I'm super excited to get to leave this review for the author and I hope you, the reader, will want to read this too!

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I'd never heard of Annalenna before I picked up this book, but she sounded interesting. Inspiring may have been a better word, though - what she achieved was amazing, her work ethic was incredible, and the conditions in which she lived horrific. Having said that, she couldn't have been easy to live with, for those very reasons. Well, this book brought all that out in a way that felt informative and interesting, but as much as possible unbiased. The author is careful to give the sources of her information and has clearly done lots and lots of research, but without feeling like it's all being shoved down one's throat. All in all, it's not the sort of book that I would want to read all the time, and can lead to feelings of personal inadequacy, but is well written, informative and inspiring.

Note that I received a complimentary copy of the book from NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and this is my considered opinion of the book.

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As an avid reader and former ex-pat myself, I was completely surprised to have never heard the moving account of Annalena Tonelli's life and work in Somalia. Journey with writer Rachel Pieh Jones as she weaves her own story of living in Djibouti with Annalena's story. At times I was encouraged. At times I was shocked. And at times I was amazed. This is the incredible account of one woman's desire to live out her convictions and love for mankind. It was so inspiring to read of her life and dedication. As a reader of Rachel Pieh Jones' blog, I really enjoyed her story intertwined with Annalena's. I recommend this book for any one of the following (or all of them!) groups of people: enjoy memoirs, have lived overseas, Christians, public health advocates, or read cross-cultural stories. This is not a light and easy read, but there is such depth in the story of Annalena Tonelli. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book.

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Top quality reading for mature Christians and someone considering possibly being a true missionary in the furthest reaches of the world. I loved it@

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Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa by Rachel Pieh Jones
This was an inspiring and difficult read. It made me evaluate my beliefs and daily actions. It made me evaluate how I love others, from close relationships like my family to relationships with strangers I meet in daily life. This book is one that you read and it changes you in some way or you probably never finish it because you aren’t ready to be changed. Annalena Tonelli, who the book is about, was a women who knew how to love like few others. Her faith was remarkable. I don’t know that I agree with everything she believed but her thoughts of love and the duties we have to love others I can get on board with completely. Although her ideas on love as an action instead of a emotion is intimidating. I don’t know that I am able to love the way she did. She loved unconditionally until her very last breath. I hope that I can constantly work towards loving more, stronger and less selfishly. .
This book is not for the weak minded. It has some very dark topics, so although I think her story should be share with young people I would caution that you read it first. Also there are many trigger topics in the book. So again an amazing book but not a light read. It is deeply emotional and an intense book.
If you like that genre of book and/or are looking to really push your faith and love even deeper than I highly recommend this book. .
I was given this book for read to read. On my Kindle app in exchange for my opinion which are my own. Thanks @netgalley and @rachelpiehjones for a great read.

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After reading an excerpt of this book in Plough Magazine, I knew I had learn more about this extraordinary woman’s story. She devoted her life to nursing ostracized Somalians who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS, and was assassinated in her own hospital by Islamic extremists after three decades of serving in Somaliland. It wasn’t the first time she had faced down a gun. The author, Rachel Pieh Jones, was living in Somaliland at the time of Tonelli’s death and shares an intimate knowledge of the history, context, and geography of Tonelli’s story. Her storytelling is captivating, going from Tonelli's own writings, conversations with people who worked alongside her, as well as Jones' own reflection on her role as an American abroad trying to do good in light of what we learn from Tonelli's radical love for the poor. Jones does not sugarcoat some of the more problematic decisions Tonelli made in her quest to be accepted by the Somali people, while still shining a light on a remarkable woman and the people she lived with and loved. As someone who has worked in international development, I read keenly Jones' insights about humanitarian work in light of what she learned from Tonelli's story. This is an excellent read.

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The life of Annalena Tonelli is remarkable. She was a woman who was brave and compassionate, carrying a servant's heart, willing to suffer and persevere in the midst of chaos.

"Stronger Than Death" is a biography of her life, through her journey serving the poor in northern Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland. Her primary effort was treating tuberculosis among the nomadic people living in the horn of Africa, which is a highly difficult thing to do, given the infectiousness of the disease. She developed the Direct Observed Therapy method of treating tuberculosis among this nomadic population, which proved highly successful and was eventually adopted by the World Health Organization as standard treatment.

Annalena navigated the immense stigma that a TB diagnosis brought for the nomads by creating a compound where people were patients could live and work, while receiving treatment for their TB. This gave them a place of purpose and belonging. She considered their culture, and their needs and melded a way to provide treatment in a way that was culturally appropriate for the people.

She endured a lot of chaos, as civil wars broke out; being a young white woman, in a primarily Muslim nation also brought it's own threats. Yet she persevered in her service to the poor and destitute, caring for all their needs. Tragically, her life was ended by a fatal gunshot wound, targeted by a terrorist organization who sought to gain momentum on a global scale.

The author, Rachel Pieh Jones, lived in Somaliland, near the compound where Annalena worked when she died, so she writes this story from her own perspective as well, as she reflects on the day she died, their evacuation and the impact it would have on her life.

I appreciated meeting Annalena through the pages of this book, learning about her life, and the culture she served in. These were 3 lessons I drew out:

1. A Deep Love for the Poor
Annalena once said, "you cannot love the poor without wanting to be like them." This is a hard statement to understand, yet through the pages of this book I saw how Annalena's life defended her conviction. She didn't seek more for herself. She didn't seek renown. She sought, instead, to care for others in the most humble ways. It brought me to wonder, how deeply have I loved others?

2. A Sharp Cultural Awareness
It takes a gift to understand a new culture and to figure out ways to solve challenges in a culturally appropriate way. The infectious nature of tuberculosis requires diagnosis and treatment, something nomads were not keen to seek because of the stigma related to the disease and the transient nature of their livelihood. Her keen awareness and courage to meet their cultural needs, while also treating the disease, caused me to feel an awe for her talent and perseverance.

3. Courage in the Midst of Chaos
She faced threats, some verbal and some physical, yet she didn't shy away from serving. Counting the costs, she knew it was possible she would experience her last days in the horn of Africa. It seemed to be her great delight, serving the people until her last breath. I have experienced times of chaos in my life, and I know that my first response wasn't always to keep serving, it was often a retreat inward. Courage in chaos is a big step out of our comfort zone and yet scripture reminds me time and again that the life of Jesus was one lived one then fringes of normal.

Reading the testimony of Annalena's life, through the eyes of one who serves overseas, reminded me, again, of the rich perspective of circumstances cross-cultural workers face. Her story and the lessons I learned from it, challenged my thinking, how much "simpler" it seemed, to live a life of service overseas, when the desperate needs of people face you every. single. day.

If I'm honest, coming back to live in Canada, I've struggled to serve others in the same way. There are many reasons, but in the developed world, people don't come to my doorstep every morning with their physical needs. I feel convicted because I have become lazy. I've not looked with open eyes, to the people around me, or the needs before me. Perhaps lost in the busyness of life, or just plain old distracted. With open eyes, may I see people in a new light, with a new heart, to bring hope and healing to those whom God puts on my path. Annalena poured out her heart to the people who needed her, can I do the same for those around me?

How do you care for the needs of those around you?

Special thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced reader copy of this book, and the opportunity to post an honest review!

#StrongerThanDeath #Netgalley #bookreview #bibliophile

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Annalena Tonelli was a remarkable woman and yet it appears that very few people have heard of her. It is to be hoped that this excellent account of her life will bring her to wider renown, as she certainly deserves to be better known and acknowledged for her selfless devotion to the poor and sick of Somalia, particularly those suffering from TB. She spent over 30 years serving the disadvantaged, and was fearless and determined to do what she considered right. Her faith informed her life and work but she was never pious or evangelical. What seemed to be her overriding motive was simply love for her fellow man, unconditional and selfless love. This is a well-researched and balanced biography. Given the author’s obvious reverence and affection for Tonelli it could so easily have turned into a hagiography, but it fortunately avoids this. It’s also an important book and should be required reading for anyone interested in or involved in aid work, as it has much to say about how such aid work should be approached. It’s not enough to just go into a trouble spot and hand out food and medication, but what’s needed are people willing to embed themselves into the society and culture without judgement or preconceived ideas. It’s a really fascinating account of a woman dedicated to helping others and I found it a deeply compelling read.

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I really enjoyed reading this, Annalena Tonelli is a really interesting person to read about. I'm glad to read this as I never heard about her before, I appreciated learning about her and what she's done. It was a feel good book and I'm glad her stories being told.

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A beautiful and inspiring biography. A view into a health issue and culture unfamiliar to me, so loved the way Rachel took the reader with her into the huts, the dusty streets and life changing work that is happening in a world that isn't even watching the Horn of Africa.

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Stronger than Death tells the story of what real missionary work should be. There is more than just religion, there was action, their care, and love of the poor. TO read this story shows me this world has people who are truly good.
Annalena treated TB in places like Kenya and Somalia. she faces down violence every day but never stopped caring for those in need. She knew that religion called for care and love for the needy. Unlike many of the biggest "missionary/pastors", Annalena didn't live in opulence. She lived in poverty pouring all her money into the saving of those with TB. If I say more, I'll tell you the whole story.
Even though Annalena would never like the publication of this book, I agree with the author that this book should be written, her story must be told. By reaching just one person through this book, continues Annalena's work.
The book itself is well written and researched. Background of countries and wars are included and the author spoke with as many people as she could. There is just one negative here: the author inserts herself. It's odd moments that should bolster Annalena but it just seems more like she wanst to be connected to Annalena so badly so she can feel better about herself. There is no need. The author shares this story with dedication, love, and respect and that is a connection that never dies.
I would encourage everyone to read this book. T think about their calling. to challenge the idea of Christianity. I am blessed to have read this story.

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I had never heard of Annalena Tonelli before hearing about this book. As I am involved in cross-cultural work, living as an expat across the ocean from my country of birth, I was very interested to read about this woman. Her choices and perspectives have challenged and inspired me, whether I agree with all of them or not. There is no denying she was the hands and feet of Jesus, showing love to those who needed it in a tangible way, making a difference here and now. It is often a struggle to know how best to help people that have enormous physical needs, when we are also concerned for their spiritual lives. One cannot trump the other, can it?
I don't think this book seeks to give all the answers - or even any answers - but rather, it tells a very important story of a woman doing very important work.

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