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)
Actor/director/teacher. Live most of the time in Beijing now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Boy if you ever wondered how you would fair after a weather adversity, you need to read this. It's a true story about how one ethnic family was treated in such adverse conditions. How the media fueled the flame to create a manic situation. It's written factual, not negative or seeking sympathy.
When I first came across this, my first reaction was if I really needed to rehash it all again....yeah, I did.
I don't think I have read a book like it. It was scary truthful - not in a poor me manner. I have to say too that I was shocked how ignorant I was about the Muslim faith from reading this book.
Obviously, pronouncing the foreign words. Because most of us not middle easterners can't say the words, we just skip over those groups of unfamiliar letters that we can not pronounce.
I don't want to say because I read a review of this book that told too much and ruined a piviotal part in this book for me....when Kathy wasn't getting an answer. I wish I had not read that review for I was right there with her.
Loved it. I am so shocked to read some reviews. This book was SO SO SO not boring. It is so so more than a story about Katrina. It's more about racism and ignorance and having too much trust in your govenment.
I am 2/3 of the way through, and it so slow. So many of the details are unnecessary and repititious. If I read it, I would skim quickly past those parts, but you can't when you listen. Either listen to an abridged version or read this book. Warning: it will take forever if you listen! This is about the 80th book I have listened to and this is only the second time I wished it were abridged. The story is worthwhile, just not in this format.
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.
After reading this well written book- I experienced a change in my heart. It provided knowledge that I had forgotten and renewed my love for all of God's people.
I had three good friends of the Moslem faith during my college days. I dated one young man studing to be a physician and he was a good friend. We never discussed religion because we knew we did not agree. We had fun and he was a good man.
After 9-11 my heart changed and I felt a resentment toward the people I saw cheering in the streets on TV. The resentment suddenly spread to all people of the Moslem faith. The feelings were not hate but anger and a blaming this group of people for the events. I think many American feel this way and really do not realize that there are so many wonderful Moslem people in the USA that are a great asset to all of us. Just as we have American that do awful things, the same is true of all Religious groups.
The Moslem people are good people that love and care for their families and for others.
After reading this book I felt shame for my feelings and knew I was wrong in my judgements toward this Faith. It was healing to my soul and I highly encourage others to read this book. I am a better American and person.
Dave Eggers knows how to tell a story. The story is compelling and thought provoking. This story confirms that old adage that the truth is stranger than fiction. The narration is spot on.
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!
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