A New York Times Notable Book An O, The Oprah Magazine Terrific Read of the YearA Huffington Post Best Book of the Year A New Yorker Favorite Book of the Year A Chicago Tribune Favorite Nonfiction Book of the Year A Kansas City Star Best Book of the Year A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Decade The true story of one family, caught between America's two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina. Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun run a house-painting business in New Orleans. In August of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approaches, Kathy evacuates with their four young children, leaving Zeitoun to watch over the business. In the days following the storm he travels the city by canoe, feeding abandoned animals and helping elderly neighbors. Then, on September 6th, police officers armed with M-16s arrest Zeitoun in his home. Told with eloquence and compassion, Zeitoun is a riveting account of one family's unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water.
I am listening to the audio book, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers beautifully narrated by Firdous Bamji. It is impossible to turn off. Scenes of this Syrian-American family and their hardworking father, scenes of his years as a sailor and scenes of his brother the world famous swimmer; I am captivated at times and others breathless and have to take a break. The re-creation of New Orleans under water and starving dogs and floating bodies difficult to listen to.
When Katrina happened, I was working for the city of Ft. Worth. Fort Worth took in many of those fleeing its effect. I'll never forget the lists of names posted at centers for aid workers to assist family members trying to find their loved ones and the stories of children separated from the mothers, heartwrenching. We took in a librarian from NOLA.
This book reignites the anger and frustration and hopelessness I felt as it happened looking on from afar. And on top of the unnatural disaster that Katrina was the man-made travesty of the "anti-terrorism" sweeps made across this country victimizing real heroes like Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who had suffered such backlash in this post 9-11 world in the name of the "War on Terror".. I am again ashamed.
Eggers has produced an interesting account of the drama's surrounding the floods in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina. Written in the style Truman Capote described as the 'non-fiction novel', the book is divided into 3 parts; before the flood, events during the flood, and the authorities reaction to the citizens that decide to stay.
Well worth a read.
The story of a man too good to believe, except he really is that good of a man, who is in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong atmosphere of political paranoia and enters an existential torture chamber.
I'm not a huge Eggers fan. I think he is a good storyteller, but not a great writer. This is a great story and he removes himself enough from it to tell it quite well. He should stick to journalism, it suits his style much more--although he really needs to find an editor who knows how to use lie and lay correctly.
I am simply flabbergasted by the rave reviews of this novel. I've yet to come across even a remotely negative reaction to this book on any online reader site. So, I suppose, I stand alone in thinking that David Eggers' "Zeitoun" is a slow, plodding novel. Worse, I always feel as though I am being manipulated by the author's heavy-hand as to how I should feel about everything that occurs.
For instance, I have no idea why the main character and his family have to be Muslim in order to illustrate the mayhem and tragedy immediately following Hurricane Katrina. The inherant cultural details of the title character's country of origin (Syria) and his religion take up an inordinate amount of the novel, as if these facts are crucial to the narrative. I argue Zeitoun could be any religion to experience the events of this novel (and frankly, Eggers demonstrates as much himself through several minor characters). Once Zeitoun's predictament is resolved, it is clear that what happened to him had absolutely nothing to do with who he was, but more that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. What happened to Zeitoun is what happens when a civilization falls apart not when a civilization falls apart in a country where being a Muslim is not popular with non-Muslims.
An historical novel that focuses on the details of an individual to convey the broader details of that history is a long-time tradition of storytelling. However, while the thrust of Zeitoun's particular situation is always in the context of his nationality and religion, there is never any payoff to these facts, there is only insinuation. I believe Eggers wanted to say a lot more about the US government under Bush, the National Guard, FEMA, the justice system, police and local government, but he didn't have the guts. So he resorted to winks and slight-of-hand irony and I'm not buying it.
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