The true story of one family, caught between Americas 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 familys unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water.
A New York Times Notable Book
An O, The Oprah Magazine Terrific Read of the Year
A 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
Zeitoun is certainly a notable book and deserving of all the praise it's received, but it's not flawless. I found much of it plodding and poorly written - disappointing in light of Eggers' considerable literary talent. More than that, though, was the feeling that I was being overtly manipulated into having certain opinions or feelings toward the main character and his situation. All writers do this to some extent, but in Eggers' case it's blatant and heavy-handed. The first half of the book, for example, relates the lives and histories of Zeitoun and his Louisiana-born wife, Kathy. So much of the narrative focuses on the fact that the couple are Muslim, however, that it biases readers for what is to come. By the time we reach Zeitoun's arrest, we're predisposed to think his treatment is due to his Middle Eastern background, and some of the early summaries of the book go further to imply that this is the case. It eventually becomes apparent that Zeitoun's race and religion are immaterial to his situation, but by then the implication of racism is hard to shake. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
The New York Times - Timothy Egan
There are no rants against President Bush, no cheap shots at the authorities who let this city drown. He does it the old-fashioned way: with show-not-tell prose, in the most restrained of voices.
The New York Times Book Review
Fifty years from now, when people want to know what happened to this once-great city during a shameful episode of our history, they will still be talking about a family named Zeitoun.
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
[A] heartfelt book, so fierce in its fury, so beautiful in its richly nuanced, compassionate telling of an American tragedy, and finally, so sweetly, stubbornly hopeful
Anyone who cares about America, where it is going and where it almost went, before it caught itself, will want to read this thrilling, heartbreaking, wonderful book.
Eggers’s sympathy for Zeitoun is as plain and real as his style in telling the man’s story. He doesn’t try to dazzle with heartbreaking pirouettes of staggering prose; he simply lets the surreal and tragic facts speak for themselves. And what they say about one man and the city he loves and calls home is unshakably poignant—but not without hope.
Vanity Fair Zeitoun is a riveting, intimate, wide-scanning, disturbing, inspiring nonfiction account...Humanistic, that is, in the highest, best, least boring sense of the word.
San Francisco Chronicle Zeitoun is a warm, exciting and entirely fresh way of experiencing Hurricane Katrina. . . . Eggers makes this account completely new, and so infuriating I found myself panting with rage.
This Kafkaesque story is sure to shock, horrify, and outrage listeners and will especially appeal to those who enjoy nonfiction survival stories. It should be required reading/listening to ensure that nothing like the events described here will ever be repeated.
Eggers tells Zeitoun's tragic story without the postmodern trickery and tirades he has exhibited in previous works. Instead, he allows the story to tell itself while imbuing Zeitoun's tragedy with deep sympathy and emotion....an overall unforgettable story.
Starred Review. In the wake of disaster, we often cling to stories reassuring us that we respond to trials heroically. But Zeitoun reminds us that we are just as capable of responding to fear fearfully, forgetting the very things we claim to value most. Heartbreaking and haunting.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Judy O. Fantastic Story My husband and I listened to the audio book form of this gripping, true story on a trip to Virginia. Listening to it made the time fly. The treatment of Zeitoun and his family during the terrible Hurricane Katrina aftermath was outrageous! Most... Read More
Rated of 5
by Ariel Zeitoun by Dave Eggers I am not certain how I happened to decided to download this book on to my Kindle to read a sample chapter. But I was hooked once I read the chapter.
I did not realize initially that this was a true story about a man born in Syria, Abdulrahman... Read More
Rated of 5
by avid important This book is important, yet has been largely overlooked by reviewers and book clubs. It's not just a history of Hurricane Katrina, but a personal account of the storm and its aftermath. More significantly, it spotlights our country's emergency... Read More
The term "hurricane" is believed to originate with the Carib people of the West Indies (after whom the Caribbean was named). Historians believe that the Carib word huracan was probably derived from the Mayan storm god, Hunraken or the K'iche god of thunder and lightning, Hurakan. K'iche (in Spanish Quiché) is a part of the Mayan language family spoken by many people in the central highlands of Guatemala.
Hurricanes form when moisture from warm ocean water (at least 80oF/27oC) combines with warm air at the ocean surface. The developing storm is then hit by a strong surface wind that spirals the air inward. Bands of thunderstorms form over this storm which allows the air to warm further and rise higher into the atmosphere. Lighter winds at higher levels allow the structure to remain intact and grow. Because of the sea temperatures needed to form a hurricane they occur almost exclusively in the tropics, but cannot form within 300 miles of the equator due to insufficient Coriolis...
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