I just finished this well written non-fiction book about a family and their trials around Hurricane Katrina. The main character is Abdulrahman Zeitoun. He is a middle-aged Syrian-American father of four. He owns of a successful painting and contracting firm. He works hard and takes good care of his loved ones. He the kind of neighbor you wish you had.
This a dark fable. Ok fable isn’t the correct word but it’s a cautionary tale about our country. About what we’ve become. Eggers doesn’t need to remind us about the “attaboy Brownie” quotes to get a rise from us. This fable, this one family’s non-fictional account quietly does the job. Eggers doesn’t need cheap shots. Just read the story.
Things start out at a slow simmer. We find ourselves two days before the storm arrives. People are fleeing, tension builds and anxiety is high. It’s like a horror movie. You know the world is going to hell. The birds gather on a telephone pole. You shout “don’t go in the basement.” You know the story. You know whats coming.
I’ll stop here. I don’t want to throw in any spoilers. Let’s just say after the storm Zeitoun does the best he can. He protects his house and rental properties. He helps anyone and everyone he can while rowing his canoe around his flooded city. FEMA, the governmental disaster agency, had turned into a loose band of military thugs that saw things through the lens of counter-terrism. Let’s call them anti-rose colored glasses. Zeitoun was Syrian-American and roaming New Orleans in a canoe. That’s all they needed to know. Zeitoun was thrown in jail, treated harshly and not given a phone call. His wife and family don’t know where he is. It’s a special kind of hell.
This book mentions that isn’t not a full account of New Orleans or Hurrican Katrina but if you really want to know what it was like this is the first book I’d read.
The Zeitoun Foundation was set up in 2009 to aid in the rebuilding of and on going health of the city of New Orleans and to ensure the human rights of all Americans.
A portion of proceeds from the book go to this foundation.