Book Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Rating: 5/5
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 337
First published: 2009
Genre: memoir


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.


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

16 Responses to Book Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

  1. Sally says:

    I really enjoyed your review, it sounds like a very trying time this family had to go through, usually I get all my reviews from this site called The book report (, give it a try.

  2. JoV says:

    I love this book and have been meaning to read another one by Dave Eggers.
    My review can be found here:

    I’m so glad you love it too Judith. 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks for the link, Jo. I now also want to read other books by this author (at first, I wasn’t sure they would be for me).

      • JoV says:

        I thought of “What is What” and “A heartbreaking work of staggering genius” (His biography) and “the Wild Things” are some of his well known ones. I think Dave Egger is a great writer with a mission.

  3. I read this on the recommendation of a friend a year or so ago and I was so furious by the end that I couldn’t stand it. Despite that, or maybe because of that fact, I highly recommend this book. I don’t think I ever reviewed it anywhere. I read it before I started reviewing.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Amanda, it helps that I don’t live in the US and my opinion about the country in general (if one can have such a thing) wavers rather between great and terrible, so I was able to handle the book. If such a thing happened in my own country (and who knows? maybe it does) I would be furious too.

  4. bibliosue says:

    I listened to this on audio and I too was frustrated by what happened to this family.

    Sadly, though, they have been in the news again recently as Mr. Zeitoun has been arrested and convicted for assault against his wife.

  5. Nadine Nys says:

    I had heard a lot of great things about this book, and now that you love it too, perhaps it is time for me to put it on my wishlist…
    I haven’t read any of Eggers books, although they mostly get great reviews.

  6. Amy says:

    I had no idea what this book was about. now, after reading your review, I really want to read it.I’m surprised this family seperated at this scary time, although I think I understand why but I would like to know the entire story. The bad thing that happens to Zeitoun worries me a little…I get physicaly uncomfortable and upset when senseless wrong things happen to people and there’s nothing I can do about it. I am glad the book includes an update on this family.

    Thank you!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Amy, one reason why the father wanted to stay behind is that they had several properties that they rented out and he wanted to keep an eye on them.

      The bad thing is probably make you feel very uncomfortable but I think it’s good to know that these things happen and therefore worth reading.

  7. Putting this on my TBR. I’d heard of the novel, but hadn’t read any blogger reviews of it. This sounds like a keeper. I hear financing is underway to start the movie, which director Jonathon Demme has decided will be an animating one, in keeping with the book cover.

  8. Pingback: Book Review: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers « Leeswammes' Blog

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