Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Zeitoun

by Dave Eggers

narrated by Firdous Bamji


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Zeitoun


by Dave Eggers

narrated by Firdous Bamji

Reviewed January 8, 2011.
Recorded Books, 2009. 9 compact discs. 10.5 hours.
Starred Review
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #3 Nonfiction: True Stories

I have to thank my friend Intlxpatr for reviewing this book, since her review convinced me to read it (well, listen to it). Her review is excellent, so I will only add a few comments.

Zeitoun is the true story of a successful Syrian-American businessman and his misadventures when he stayed in New Orleans to protect his property and help recover in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The author does a great job of dramatizing his story so that we feel like we know Zeitoun and his wife and children, and we understand that he would want to stay to take care of his property and the properties of his clients. He owns a painting and contracting business, and Dave Eggers takes plenty of time setting the stage to show Zeitoun's character -- hardworking and dedicated and kind.

Listening to the book, there were many times when I was completely absorbed in the story. The author artfully changes perspectives among the people involved and gives us the wife's perspective for the three weeks when she had no idea where her husband was before shifting to tell us what happened to him. Unfortunately, when I was listening to this, I had several things in my own life to worry about -- so listening to this book only made me more tense, wondering what had happened to Zeitoun.

This is not a pleasant story. He was arrested in the aftermath of Katrina when in his own property. He was arrested without a warrant and was not given a phone call, so his wife had no idea what had happened to him. He was then treated barbarically and not even told the charges against him. He had not done anything wrong. He had helped rescue several people after the storm.

Basically, the book reads like something that might happen in a third-world country under martial law. I was simply horrified that this happened in the United States. Can our fundamental human rights be taken away in the aftermath of a natural disaster? This should not have happened.

However, I do think it's important that this story gets out. May this never ever happen again in America.

This book tells a gripping story of a good man caught up in a broken system. The story makes an absorbing read and talks about an important issue as well.