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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 16 May 2015
Too many pointless stories on the Zeitoun family history back in Syria and how his wife Kathy became a Muslim. The details of Katrina, rescues and New Orleans come less in depth than his own family life
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on 13 April 2017
Speedy service great price
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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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 March 2010
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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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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on 4 December 2010
Hurrican Katrina ranks as the most destructive natural diaster is US history. As is often the case the most effective way to capture this is through the eyes of an individual.

In this instance Dave Eggers picks Muslim American Zeitoun. Zeitoun represents so much that is great about America. He is Syrian by birth and fiercly proud of the fact. It is in his adopted home he has built the American dream. A self made man, owner of a successful business, family man, with an American wife and loving daughters and community man, well known for his excellent work and good deeds in his area of New Orleans.

When the hurricane strikes and his family leaves, he opts to stay put to keep an eye on his properties and help who he can. When the floods strike he travels the flooded streets in a canoe helping the stricken and feeding stray dogs. At this point this is an adventure story of sorts, one man against the odds trying to make a difference.

The second part of the book represents all that is dark about the US. The horrific lack of response from the Bush administration leads to disaster building on disaster. Security is more important that saving people. Zeitoun is picked up because of his Arab appearance and enters a Kafka like series of events that I found difficult to believe could happen in any nation let alone the one that holds itself up as beacon of freedom.

In the end its a book about overcoming and striving for personal freedom and success. But Eggers frames it against a national sense of a country losing its way.
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on 12 March 2017
A man of faith prays and decides to stay in New Orleans despite many reports that people should leave the city. After all, he has a canoe.
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on 30 May 2011
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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on 23 May 2012
Written in a very sparse style, the first part of the book seems to want to elevate Zeitoun to sainthood, but between the lines a picture emerges of a man who does not listen to reasoned argument, and blindly does what he thinks is right. I felt no sympathy for him in what happened in the aftermath of the storm. His priority was his business and properties, not his family, who he chose to let travel for days with nowhere to call home. Whatever the failings of the government response to Katrina, Zeitoun chooses to stay in New Orleans, paddling his canoe and spending most of his time feeding abandoned dogs. He ignored the calls for mandatory evacuation, and situation updates from his wife and extended family in Europe. The man is an idiot and should have spent more time focusing on what he should have been doing.
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on 30 May 2011
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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