When HurricaneKatrina 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 eerie days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and rescuing those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared.
Eggers's riveting work, three years in the making, follows Zeitoun back to his childhood in Syria and around the world during his years as a sailor. The book also traces the story of Zeitoun's wife Kathy - a boisterous Southerner who converted to Islam - and their wonderful, funny, devoted family. When Zeitoun vanishes, Kathy is left to make sense of the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible.
©2009 Dave Eggers; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
"Imagine Charles Dickens, his sentimentality in check but his journalistic eyes wide open, roaming New Orleans after it was buried by Hurricane Katrina ... Eggers's tone is pitch-perfect - suspense blended with just enough information to stoke reader outrage and what is likely to be a typical response: How could this happen in America?" (Timothy Egan, The New York Times)
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
There is something bold and yet quiet about 'Zeitoun' the book and Zeitoun the man. There is also something bold about Dave Eggers. I don't always like the flashier parts of Eggers. The sparkle and the shake of 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius' or the fur-covered binding of 'The Wild Things' didn't really capture me like they did some. But after reading 'A Hologram for the King' I've started recognizing it for what it is -- David Eggers is simply enthusiastic, ebullient about ideas and people. He can't help himself. He has an idea and he wants it big or bigger. He wants Zeitoun's story written across the sky. For most of us the wish or desire is enough. It fills us up. We are done there and can go to bed and rest comfortably. The brilliance of the idea quickly gets burned out as the sun of the rest of our lives burns our dreams away. The brilliance (or genius) of David Eggers is his ability to follow up on these quirky little ideas. He has tremendous follow-through. He doesn't forget, he doesn't dispose, he uses and crafts and makes and publishes.
Not every book written by Eggers will be genius, but his ENERGY is always genius. His momentum is always brilliant. And, 'Zeitoun' the book was brilliant. It showed the beauty of people and the inhumanity of bureaucracies. It is the story of America. How America can contain both the best and the worst of humanity, often lit by the same light and drowned/baptized by the same waters.
Eggers is an excellent teller of other people's stories, as illustrated by his brilliant "What is the What," the story of Sudanese refugee Valentino Achak Deng. In Zeitoun, he tells the story of a Syrian-American, a successful New Orleans contracter for years, who is wrongfully imprisoned by FEMA in the wake of Katrina. The contrast between the warmth, vitality and manifest goodness of the Zeitoun family, and the impersonal brutality and incompetence of the "military occupation" authorities who took over New Orleans is striking and sobering. A "must listen," even if "What is the What" is a richer story and slightly better narrated.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
This is two books in one. The first is a mildly interesting study of the life of Zeitoun, a Syrian/American who marries an American woman who has converted to Islam. They work hard, overcome a lot of common obstacles and make a good life for themselves and their children. They live in New Orleans and get blindsided by Katrina just like hundreds of thousands of others. This book includes enough engaging biographical material for a nice feature story in a magazine.
The second book is the compelling story of Zeitoun's harrowing experience when he stays in New Orleans to protect his property and lend a helping hand to others. The meat of this narrative begins about two thirds of the way through the book and progresses through a lot of day by day detail which is chilling and sometimes appalling. Finally there is a kind of prolonged post-mortem.
Unlike the other reviewers, I thought the material, which is very powerful, was poorly served by the story telling. I understand that it was important to introduce Zeitoun and his wife and establish them as people we cared about, but this was done with so many mundane details and somewhat jumbled flashbacks that I nearly gave up before I got to the point of the story. Clearly the other reviewers did not have the same problem, so it may just be that I don't enjoy discursive writing.
I also found the vocal narration plodding and uninspired.
Nonetheless, I am glad I stuck with the book until I got to the story at the heart of the piece. It is an authentic, "How could this happen in America," story.
there are many stories that one could use and amplify to help tell the story of katrina, but the zeitoun family's story is one that will be shared for generations. eggers does a wonderful job weaving family history, a host of interviews and perspectives in this fantastic book. the narrator was good, and not distracting. i highly encourage you to spend your time with the zeitoun family.
Well, after I read it, I definitely would have. But I have since read that the main character was arrested for beating his wife, and I wonder if the whole story was a sham.
Regardless of whether the main character was accurately portrayed, the story made me realize how vital our legal intrastructure is, and how we have to have emergency preparedness to make sure people's rights are respected during disasters.
I was hesitant to read this because I thought it might be another depressing story about Hurricane Katrina. While it has its depressing aspects, the characters are so well-developed, I felt as if I knew them. There are many more twists and turns that push Katrina into the background. Katrina was merely the catalyst for the calamities that resulted in the lives of Zeitoun and his family. I enjoyed this book very much and only reserve 5 stars for "Absolute Favorites" so 4 stars is a Winner.
Difficult to believe what happened here could actually happen in America. Nonetheless, Eggers tells a very descriptive story about how one man got caught in a vortex of bureaucratic incompetence in the weeks after Katrina.
This story was an interesting window into what happened to someone who stayed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. It gives the reader a first hand perspective; it was an educational look into the corruption in this city. But, the main character and family were not easy to like. Finding out that the couple was in the court system for domestic abuse after this story was written made me question credibility of the musings of the characters. If you're going to spend time listening to someone's memoir, why not listen to one that elevates? This one was a downer.
No. I did not find this story enjoyable.
He was slow ... and seemed to emphasize with an agenda in mind.
Disappointment. I would not have completed this were it not the topic of my next book club meeting.
I listened to this book quite a while ago, and loved it. I was surprised to see reviews complaining that there were too many unnecessary details. I felt this was a bit like saying there were too many notes in a symphony.
I liked the book because it was essentially the story about people I don't know and don't see in America. It was compelling because it is the story of a woman to converted to Islam on her on accord and then later met and married an Islamic man. These are people I would never meet except through a book like this. I didn't find the story of their lives at all boring. Perhaps it is because I am a woman. Women and families are as interesting to me as big events and crisis.
Then there is the horror of Katrina and Zeitoun's disappearance. I did not know things like this happened during Katrina. I did not know that American citizens could be subjected to this treatment. What was inspiring to me was Zeitoun's wife. Her love, her determination, her refusal to be passive inspired me.
This is a good book. It's on sale right now. Buy it!
The audio edition is performed by a man who has excellent pronunciation of the Arabic names and words, and has a musical voice. Wonderfully story-telling voice.
Zeitoun and his wife are the main characters, and they are noble and good and stout-of-heart. You follow Zeitoun from the bliss of his freedom to the frustratingly illogical imprisonment; he is always a sympathetic character. The story made this listener angry at the injustice and ignorance on display in the aftermath of Katrina's destruction of New Orleans.
His clear well-accented pronunciation and his musical voice. He is excellent at portraying all the different men's voices, and very good with the women's voices. Firdous Bamji has story-telling magic in his voice - I could listen (and did) for hours.
"Interesting and horrifying"
This is a good book, which tells the terrible story of how this poor man was treated by the US authorities. It is also a rather telling account of how said authorities dealt with the aftermath of Katrina. It was mostly a good read, but it left me annoyed, frustrated and quite horrified.
"Author of misfortune"
Although I am by no means a supporter of the George W Bush administration, a natural lefty and, in American terms, a Democrat - this supposed frontal assault on red-neck, jingoistic, Republicanism literally in the wake of Hurricane Katrina seems to end up scoring more own goals than home runs. Despite repeated instructions on the part of the authorities to leave New Orleans the supposed ‘hero‘ of the book chose of his own free will to stay in town and look after his property. Those ‘oppressing‘ Police, National Guards and Civil Authorities were then obliged to put their own lives in peril by being obliged to go into the city to effect ‘rescues,‘ in the process running the risk of natural dangers and those from the albeit very small number of criminals who used the opportunity to loot their way through the wreckage. His wife in the meantime, faced with the fact that while she chooses to make a visible and daily symbol of her devotion to an all-loving God but cannot stand to be in the same house as her mother and immediate family even for a few days in a time of crisis, decamps over 1,000 miles away.At worst American society can display all that is deplorable in human nature - racism, paranoia and a total disregard for personal liberty when it gets in the way of the perceived ‘greater good.’ Here, however, a total disregard for the safety of others, the needs of the wider family members, a delusion of persecution and unwarranted self-importance are all on display and, unfortunately, whilst one finger points forward, there are three fingers pointing back to the accuser.
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