Book Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Author: Dave Eggers
Title: Zeitoun
Publication Info: Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, p2009
ISBN: 9781440764134
This work of literary non-fiction captures the harrowing story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun immediately before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina.  Zeitoun, by all accounts a decent and honest man, is a hardworking Syrian immigrant who runs a contracting business.  When the storm comes, he has his family evacuate, while he stays to keep an eye on some properties he manages.  The scenes immediately after the storm are eerily beautiful with Zeitoun paddling a canoe through the streets of New Orleans joining up with other survivors to rescue people and care for dogs left behind.  Then mysteriously Zeitoun and his companions are arrested.  He is held under shockingly cruel conditions, abused, and not allowed to contact family or a lawyer for several weeks.  It’s a chilling tale of injustice in America and indictment of the nation’s values in the post-September 11th paradigm.  Most telling is how government agencies were unable to coordinate rescuing survivors, yet within days after the storm had constructed a large, high-security prison in a bus station parking lot.  Eggers writing is straightforward and fleshed out with flashbacks to Zeitoun’s childhood in Syria and his wife Kathy’s conversion to Islam.  The writing style is a delight to read but the story makes me angry and depressed.

Recommended books: The Day the World Came to Town by Jim Defede, In the Name of the Father by Gerry Conlon and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast.
Rating: ****

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

  1. Good summary of a fine, compelling, and yes, disillusioning book. At the end I ached especially for Kathy, because her husband’s choice of shutting off the evil that had been done to them rather than working through it or demanding accountability clearly didn’t work for her and left her isolated.


    1. That’s a very good point and I hadn’t thought of it that way. I was just amazed at how Zeitoun could put things behind him and move on with life in a positive way. But you’re right some resolution is necessary.


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