Book Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
February 21, 2012 16 Comments
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 337
First published: 2009
Zeitoun: What it is About
The is the non-fiction account of Zeitoun, a builder and decorator who stayed behind in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hits. His wife, son and daughters left the city before the hurricane struck. The story follows both Zeitoun and Kathy, his wife, as they try to cope with the difficult situations they find themselves in.
Kathy has problems finding a good place to stay: her family takes her in but the usual family frictions mean it’s not a good visit and she tries to find an alternative. At the same time, she’s constantly worried about Zeitoun. First, she is worried that he will not survive the hurricane and begs him to leave. Later on, when telephone contact becomes impossible, she has no idea what (if anything) has happened to him and worries constantly.
Zeitoun, in the mean time, finds back the canoe he bought years ago and when the floods come in, he uses it to travel around the neighbourhood, helping people out where he can, and he uses it to travel to his properties (which he rents out), to check whether they are OK. With all the crime going on in town, looters, rapists, burglars, etc. it’s only some time until Zeitoun gets involved, in the most unlikely, infuriating way. It takes him and his family a long time to recover from this personal tragedy.
Zeitoun: What I thought
This story was told as a fictional account, but all information in it was reconstructed by the parties involved. It reads very fluently and easily. I loved reading how Zeitoun helped people out of their houses and fed his neighbour’s dogs with his canoe through an upstairs window.
Just as I thought (and he did too) that he should be leaving, the worst possible thing happens to him. Something that you do not expect to happen in a country like the US. Something that you definitely don’t expect to happen at the hands of the authorities. Many Third-World countries wouldn’t treat their citizens like that.
It made for an infuriating read and I was glad the book described how Zeitoun and his family were doing a few years later.