Five words from the blurb: Hurricane Katrina, flooded, neighbours, nightmare
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. Zeitoun is the true account of what happened to one man, a hard working resident who stayed in the city to protect his property and ended up in prison suspected of terrorism. This is the kind of unbelievable story that you’d never find in fiction. The twists and turns are staggering and it is shocking to discover that the events of this book happened in a modern American city.
Zeitoun begins by introducing the reader to Abdulrahman and his family. Abdulrahman was born in Syria, but emigrated to New Orleans where he set up a successful decorating business, employing a number of people around the city. The book covers the few days preceding the storm; goes on to show the effects of the strong winds and flooding on Abdulrahman’s neighbourhood; and culminates in the shocking way that Abdulrahman was treated by American authorities.
The writing was engaging throughout, the pace slowly building towards the shocking climax. I was worried that I’d find much of this book disturbing, but that wasn’t the case. Several distressing events were mentioned, but they were written so skillfully that they never traumatised me.
The book is well researched, with each account fact checked against many others. It is all intelligently written, but never becomes overburdened with statistics as the emotions of the people involved remains the priority throughout.
This book is narrative non-fiction at its best. It highlights the way that American authorities managed to make a natural disaster even worse than it already was, but also shows the strength of the human spirit. I found many sections extremely poignant and found this quote from near the end especially moving:
Zeitoun does a fantastic job of showing the Muslim religion in a positive light whilst highlighting the racism that is present in some sections of American society. It is compelling, shocking and insightful.