Saturday, December 18, 2010

Powerful story about the aftermath of Katrina for one family

By Tiffany Young
Dave Eggers, best known for his book "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," blew me away with "Zeitoun." A book about one family living in New Orleans and their experience before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, you'll be amazed at the events they go through, especially the father of the family Abdulrahman, who goes simply by Zeitoun (pronounced Zaytoon) through most of the book.

The family owns a fairly well-known business in New Orleans, building it from a small operation to one that works on many projects per day and hires many contractors. The Muslim family has many friends in the area and has a very good reputation in their community. Eggers lays out their characters and their background in the beginning of the story and begins weaving events leading up to Katrina and through the storm with events of the family's past: where Zeitoun came from, how he met his wife Kathy, what his family was like growing up and his desire to do something great like his older brother, who died at a young age.

Zetioun decides to stay in New Orleans through the storm, because the city often has storms coming through at the end of the summer and beginning of the fall and he wants to be around to keep his various real estate well-kept as well as be available to his clients. His wife decides she and the children must leave, but is worried about leaving Zeitoun behind after hearing news reports continuously warning the public to leave New Orleans.

Zetioun is not worried and weathers the storm fine and afterward feels very peaceful as he begins rescuing others from their homes and taking care of his properties. For several days he meets with acquaintances, using his canoe to get from place to place, and does what he can to help others and the animals that had been left behind.

However, while at one of his rental properties to use the phone to call his family, as he had done each day before, a knock at the door challenges his freedom and rights as an American. What ensues is the part of the book that must be read for yourself to believe that such an atrocious mistake could be made to an upstanding citizen.

The Zeitoon's are tried in a number of ways and must seek justice to overcome the trials that follow.

This book is a must-read in my opinion. It is powerful and will make you think about what is right and wrong and how doing small acts without questioning can lead to large injustices in the world—perhaps even in your own back yard.

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