Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Zeitoun - Dave Eggers

I approach all books by Dave Eggers with a little excitement laced with slight trepidation. I know the book will certainly be well written, and I always really want to like anything he writes for some reason. But, I fear at times it will be over-written, too self-indulgent or self-congratulatory. I had no real expectations for Zeitoun because I had no idea what it was about. I didn't even know that it was non-fiction. But, Zeitoun is that story of the Zeitoun family. Abdulrahman Zeitoun is a Syrian immigrant who works extraodinarily hard to run a successful painting business in New Orleans. He has a wonderful wife, and four beautiful children. As one can imagine, after September 11, living as a Muslim in the South is no easy task. But, Zeitoun and his wife approach their daily lives with humor and love, and are instant likeable characters. When Hurrican Katrina hits, Zeitoun's wife Kathy drives her children safely to stay with family near Baton Rouge. Zeitoun, on the other hand, stays behind. He can't fathom that an evacuation is actually necessary, and besides he has too many properties and projects to keep an eye on. Eggers's book follows Zeitoun in his day-to-day adventure and his heroic efforts to paddle through the streets of New Orleans helping those worse off than himself once the levees break and everything turns to chaos. This is an amazing book - in many ways it is quite simplistic. It tells Zeitoun's story - which turns quite tragic - very matter-of-factly. But, at the same time, it is in depth in terms of subject matter. Obviously, there has been so much reported and written about Hurricane Katrina, our nation's failure to provide for its victims, and all of the misplaced famlies it in its wake. But, this book, focuses so intently on one family - in particular one man - who is so different from the demographic most people probably picutre when thinking about New Orleans. While the ending is frustrating, I'm not sure how else Eggers could have chosen to end the book. This is a truly captivating story - a quick read - but one that will stay with me, I'm sure, for a long time to come.

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