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107 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zeitoun - Dave Eggers staggering work on a city in ruins
After watching Newsnight review the other evening where the irritatingly self satisfied and smug reviewer panned this book I felt compelled to write a review. In total ignorance of the author Dave Eggers I bought this book in New York at Christmas where it had generated real controversy. The impact of the New Orleans floods has a strange and compelling fascination not...
Published on 13 Mar 2010 by Red on Black

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Insite
Slow start but really starts to flow into a picture of the reaction after the storm. Shocking but not surprising.
Published 3 months ago by ramon


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107 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zeitoun - Dave Eggers staggering work on a city in ruins, 13 Mar 2010
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
After watching Newsnight review the other evening where the irritatingly self satisfied and smug reviewer panned this book I felt compelled to write a review. In total ignorance of the author Dave Eggers I bought this book in New York at Christmas where it had generated real controversy. The impact of the New Orleans floods has a strange and compelling fascination not least of all in terms of wider climate change impacts (let's not even go near that controversy!) but also the incompetent reaction of the Bush administration and its treatment of the US black "underclass".

I have subsequently read in addition the tragically hysterical "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" which was superb and will be guided by other Amazon readers on Mr Eggers other works? But let me add that "Zeitoun" is as far away from Eggers frantic debut as possible not only in the way the book is constructed but the style and sheer power of the writing.

This is a non fiction account of Abdulrahman Zeitoun an immigrant from Syria and his wife Kathy who in 2005 owned a successful house-painting business in New Orleans. When Katrina hits Abdulrahman stays behind to watch out for his property. Eggers was not present at the disaster but has essentially ghost written this book for the Zeitoun's. And what a story it is. There are no great rants against Bush or the incompetent New Orleans authorities. Eggers doesn't need to do this since the facts as presented are the most massive indictment in their own right and speak for themselves.

Without giving away the story what compounds this Kafka style nightmare for Abdulrahman Zeitoun is his Arab and Muslim heritage and the continuing rolling paranoia which still rumbled on from the aftermath of Al Qaeda's savage attack on the twin towers. Add to this dark lens an exotic but poor city which prior to the floods had a byzantine range of problems and as the Levee's break these spew out into the city. New Orleans then finds itself on the verge of collapse, extreme violence and break down. Cast your mind back to 2005 and the terrible, sinister and tragic atmosphere in the New Orleans Superdome, the wild rumormongering of Mayor Ray Nagin and the spectacle of a largely poor black community "left behind" .

Within the totality of this toxic mix Abdulrahman Zeitoun is a thoroughly decent human being who performed in his own way a range of little miracles. Those of you who have travelled the US will know the dangers of finding yourself caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Zeitoun unfortunately experienced this in spades and Eggers charts this and the response of his wonderful family who had fled the city with pristine clarity and an emotional punch so hard it knocks you off your feet. He doesn't resort to hyperbole but in simple sentences his description of a city that "smelled dirtier every day, a wretched mélange of fish and mud and chemicals." or the constant helicopters making a "vibrating sky" he conveys vivid images. The great director Jonathan Demme is said to be making a film of Zeitoun, if it captures just a small portion of the emotional force of this book it will be a classic
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and gripping, 25 Mar 2010
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
This amazing book is the true story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Muslim building contractor living with his family in New Orleans when Cyclone Katrina hit. Zeitoun's wife Kathy left New Orleans with their children, but Zeitoun chose to stay behind and the book is about what happens to him in the weeks after Katrina strikes. The first half of the book is about the storm and his first week in the flooded city. Zeitoun paddles about in a canoe, helping others where he can. Then he disappears, and Eggers shifts to Kathy's point of view. From this point, the tension rapidly builds and the book becomes increasingly difficult to put down.

Post-Katrina, New Orleans was effectively a city under martial law, with the enforcers - many from outside the city - getting increasingly frenzied by media reports of looting, rape and murder. There's a quote at the start of the book that "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail" - to them, every person looked like a looter, even an elderly woman retrieving a packet of sausages from her own car. The system was so screwed that they prioritised building a temporary prison ahead of feeding their citizens and providing them with essential services.

It's a very simply written but immensely readable book. Eggers tells us what people were thinking and how they were feeling, but largely resists passing judgement on the situation, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. I tore through it, feeling increasingly angry and disbelieving at what Zeitoun was going through and how this could be happening in a major US city in 2005. While the book is about a specific situation, it also gets you thinking about how easily things can spin out of control and how easy it is to be the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is an eye opening and important story, powerfully told.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, 14 April 2010
By 
Nick Brett (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
This is the true and astonishing tale of a decent man caught up in a total breakdown of society. The fact that this happened recently and in the USA shows just how easy and quickly things can go bad.

The book is about Zeitoun, a Syrian born American and his experience in New Orleans at the time of hurricane Katrina. It takes the American dream (a hard working immigrant with a supportive and loving family doing well in the US) and then shows us just how badly a country can treat its own people when things go wrong. And the levels of just how wrong things got are almost unbelievable.
As Katrina approaches New Orleans, Zeitoun evacuates his family but decides to stay to look after his property and business. As the floods come he finds himself in a canoe, paddling around the city helping rescue people, feeding abandoned pets and distributing food and water. Just the sort of person you would want as a neighbour or to help in a crisis.
After a few days things take an ugly turn when Zeitoun, along with three friends, is arrested for looting his own house and his own property. Put into a temporary prison, allowed little food, no external contact or legal representation Zeitoun is swept up in the paranoia and administrative mess that was post Katrina New Orleans. He and other innocent individuals were all held for considerable periods of time before being released with no charges, and the tales of what was done are horrific, the elderly diabetic lady locked up for getting food from her own car, people arrested and having all their money 'vanish' during their processing, all incredible. Because Zeitoun was dark skinned and a Muslim, he was treated with suspicion and disrespect because there were fears that 'terrorists might use the chaos of Katrina to cause additional trouble'.
Here in the UK we saw much of the footage, but the dark underbelly of what happened during Katrina is exposed here, and it is a tale that will have your jaw dropping in disbelief. How a country such as the US could get all this so very wrong and to fail to admit to its mistakes shows just how thin a veneer society and civilisation really is.
This experience has had a profound impact on Zeitoun and his wife is obviously still suffering from PTSD. I hope things turn around for them, they receive compensation for the way they were treated and those held accountable get what they deserve too.
Delighted to see that the profits from this book go to a range of charities, but once you come to know Zeitoun through this book, you would expect nothing less.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, Gripping and Shocking, 30 May 2011
By 
Ian R. West "deadwest" (Camberley, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zeitoun (Paperback)
This is by far the best book I've read so far this year. So good I read it in less than a week as I couledn't put it down. I don't know how anyone cannot be moved by this book.
It shows how bad basic human rights can be in one of the world's largest democracies. While America preaches its notion of "the free world" some American citizens are deprived of basic human rights such as proper legal representation and the right to one phone call when being arrested
READ THIS!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another victim of 'Dubya's Crusade!, 2 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Zeitoun (Paperback)
Heart-warming but Heart-tearing story of one (double)victim of Hurricane Katerina and George W. Bush's 'Crusade' the War on Terror. The latent racism apparently endemic in US society manifests itself, eloquently and touchingly narrated by Dave Eggers in a gripping "can't put it down" Drama-Docu.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly amazing., 30 May 2011
By 
Amazon Customer (Normanton, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zeitoun (Paperback)
I was told to read this book as I'm going to study for a year in a university in America, and they recommended it as a suggestion of transition into American life. Of course being told to read it I thought it was going to be horrific, but I couldn't have been further from the truth! A module in my university focused on Hurricane Katrina and the affects of it, so this book was extra compelling to me, but the outrage I felt whilst reading Zeitoun's story was unbelievable. You mainly saw the affects of African Americans in news coverage, but Zeitoun reflects how the Arab Americans were treated too, even though Zeitoun himself was quite possibly one of the kindest men you'd ever meet.
The inclusion of pictures throughout the novel was excellent to build up an image of Zeitoun and his family itself, and I never once found myself annoyed at any of the characters other than the Americans themselves sometimes.
Overall, a surprisingly amazing read that was excellently written and really let you connect to the people in the story, leaving you slightly astounded that this isn't a work of fiction but in fact real life!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome tale of the altruistic nature of special individuals such as Mr Zeitoun., 14 Mar 2010
This review is from: Zeitoun (Hardcover)
Heart warming and sad, incredible that something like this could happen in the richest country in the world. Politicians should hang their heads in shame as the capitalist world does not work. Mr Zeitoun is a remarkable man and this is his story. Well done again Dave Eggers!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable account!, 22 Mar 2014
This review is from: Zeitoun (Paperback)
A must-read account of the days leading up to and post Hurricane "Katrina" from the perspective of Syrian born Abdul Zeitoun. The force of nature versus human oppression. A brave and heart wrenching book by Dave Eggers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional literary journalism., 25 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Zeitoun (Kindle Edition)
This is much more than an account of Hurricane Katrina. Racism, religion, human rights, family, love, loss - all the big themes are right here!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perturbing, 20 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Zeitoun (Kindle Edition)
This is a very captivating, yet perturbing account of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I found the account of the hurricane and the fears surrounding it captivating, but the way the authorities dealt with the aftermath and those still in the city is SO perturbing! Can that really happen in this day and age?
I liked the way Eggers also weaved the storty of the Zeitoun's life through memories etc.
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Zeitoun
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (Paperback - 24 Feb 2011)
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