In one remarkable little book, Dave Eggers brings to life both the best and the worst of the USA. Zeitoun is the unlikely story of a Syrian-American immigrant who builds a prosperous life and an enviable reputation for himself and his family and then experiences the full force of Hurricane Katrina and its protracted aftermath.
Eggers, a brilliant writer who routinely chooses to become emotionally involved with his subject matter, spent years interviewing Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the character of the title; his wife, Kathy, a Louisiana-born convert to Islam; and numerous members of the Zeitoun family, friends, neighbors, business associates, and others with whom Zeitoun came in contact in the course of his experiences with the hurricane. He tells the tale from the point of view of Zeitoun and Kathy, looping in and out of their past experiences as the narrative set in recent time relentlessly moves forward. Eggers’ powerful prose and his mastery in organizing the tale fill it with insight and suspense. Few novels can surpass this rigorously researched book for depth of characterization or sheer, edge-of-the-seat wonder about what comes next.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2010) 370 pages ★★★★★
Because so much of the reader’s reward from Zeitoun lies in encountering the twists and turns of the story, I can’t bring myself to synopsize the book. Read it for yourself — to enter the lives of one fascinating family, to gain insight into what it was like to live through Hurricane Katrina, and to understand far better than you will from any journalistic report what really happened in New Orleans in the tragic days of September 2005.
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