By Dave Eggers
I have been trying to write a review for this, but have been suspending it for some reason. It’s definitely different from the other stuff I’ve read by Dave Eggers.
In Zeitoun, he acts as merely a narrator, a neutral one at that, of the experiences of the Zeitoun family pre-, during and post-Katrina, the hurricane that shook not only New Orleans, but the world as well.
What I liked about this book: The Zeitouns themselves. They’re exactly the kind of neighbors I’d want to have. They’re such nice people, but at the same time, they do not allow anyone to take them for granted. I especially liked Kathy Zeitoun for her strong will to carry on and take care of her four children (now five) despite the horrors that they were facing. She’s an exemplary woman. I also liked how Dave Eggers would mention the little details that would make you feel like you’re actually in it. The little stories as well that jump from Zeitoun’s childhood in Syria, to his adulthood in the sea with Ahmad, then to his life in New Orleans were nice to read. This book filled me in as well to just how wretched the Bush-era government was without actually saying it outright. There’s no “I hate Bush damn it” or anything explicit like that. Eggers leaves it all up to you to judge for yourself.
Prior to reading this, I had vague ideas about the Hurricane Katrina. I knew that a lot of people died and that houses were destroyed. But I didn’t have any strong feelings about it because I live so far away that it all just seemed so irrelevant to me at the time. But upon reading this and after last year (details to follow), I just could not help but feel so sad and so sympathetic to everyone who had to experience it.
Here’s why: Last year, the Philippines experienced its own version of Katrina called “Ondoy”. Me and my family were one of the thousands who were affected by this. Our own home, where we keep everything we own and where we sleep every single night, was submerged with two to three feet of water. Outside our house, the water was five to six feet high. All our cars were underwater, I carried my dog all night, our beds were all wet, etc. You get the idea.
Reading this book felt like reliving last year’s tragic storm and it almost made me cry. Not because of what happened to our house, (our house was flooded, but it was fine after a few days of cleaning up) but because of the many, many people who had to say goodbye completely to their homes. A close friend of mine who lived in Marikina (the place that suffered the most during the storm) lost her two-floor house and even her dog. :( It was really terrible.
The experience of reading this book was intensely personal for me. I felt anger towards the US government, compassion towards Abduhlraman, and admiration for Kathy. In the end, I was just glad that it was all over and that the Zeitouns are fine and doing well in New Orleans, their home still.