Thursday, July 1, 2010

Zeitoun - Dave Eggers

Summary: When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared.

Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible.

Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria.
(Summary from book, cover from

My Review: This story featuring one family living through Hurricane Katrina begins with gripping anticipation. The reader already knows the outcome of this horrendous storm and the devastating aftermath. Yet as the book opens the Zeitoun family is living a regular day in their lives, only mildly concerned about the storm. As New Orleans is evacuated the family decides to split with the mother and kids heading north and Mr. Zeitoun staying to care for the house and business. Through Mr. Zeitoun's eyes we are able to see the events unfold following the hurricane's destructive path.

Once the storm hits the reader is flooded with a mix of emotions; admiration for Mr. Zeitoun's bravery combined with great sadness for all the loss taking places. This book is so well written I felt like I was living through it myself. The story is absolutely heart-wrenching. I was humbled by Mr. Zeitoun's ability to put others before himself time and time again.

Soon the story loops into so much more than a tale of Hurricane Katrina. Zietoun's good deeds were not rewarded as he is arrested and falsely charged with looting. He is sent to a makeshift prison where he is denied his rights to a phone call time and time again. As he attempts to escape this nightmare his family loses touch with him and fears the worst. All signs point to him being unfairly targeted due to his Muslim faith.

The Zeitoun's story is appalling and leaves the reader seething with rage at the injustice taking place during a time of weakness. It left me questioning what other misdeeds happened behind the scenes the the media neglected to bring to attention. This is an emotionally difficult read yet an important one. I would definitely recommend it to others.

Rating: 4 Stars

To sum it up: An eye opening account of the horrors behind the scenes of Hurricane Katrina.

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