by Dave Eggers

Judy Stanton (10/08/13): Journalist Dave Eggers does a masterful job of personalizing the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. He introduces you to a hard-working, honest Muslim family in New Orleans and gives enough background so the reader understands their lives and decision-making processes before the crisis. Then, he proceeds to show you how their lives are torn apart, first by the physical damage to their properties, and then by the damage to their psyches by the "law keepers" who seem to have done more to cause than quiet the chaos. The story is very well written and compelling, making you feel the utter frustration and anger os someone caught in a system where there is no recourse to justice. We expect our country to meet to a higher standard; Zeitoun shows that our system can and does break down, especially in times of disaster. Actually, it's pretty scary. 4+
Rating: ****

Anne Ferber (09/05/11): If one has an empathetic heart, this book can do some real damage. America, the light of the world, has some ghost filled closets and this is illustrative.

The story has been well described and is simply told of a hard working immigrant American family capturing what has become the illusive American Dream. Since the family is Muslim and the father from Syria, this accomplishment is remarkable in view of post 9/11 attitudes. New Orleans' temporary demise as a result of Katrina has been well documented in the media and through literature and documentaries.

What has not been reiterated enough is the injustice and flagrant lack of attention to rule of law promulgated by agencies of the American government, as a result of this natural disaster as well as the man-made disasters after 9/11 in the name of security and patriotism. This is the powerful message of Mr. Eggers. It is not only engrossing, but infuriating as well.

What is amazing to me is that the author and protagonists seem to end on an optimistic note. I can only think of that famous quote of Winston Churchhill: "You can always count on America to do the right thing, after they've tried everything else."
Rating: ****

Gail Reid: Abdulrahman Zeitoun is a well-known and well-respected painting contractor in New Orleans. Zeitoun, his American-born wife Kathy and their four children are Muslims, who in spite of some friction with Kathy's Christian relatives are well assimilated in their Community.

With Hurricane Katrina imminent, Kathy and the kids flee to relatives in Baton Rouge while Zeitoun stays behind to secure their home and rental properties. Paddling around the city in a canoe, he rescues elderly people; assists a few remaining neighbors and brings food from his freezer to starving animals. So it is with a great deal of shock that this self-styled Good Samaritan is arrested, thrown into maximum security prison, and labeled a terrorist during the aftermath of the Katrina devastation

If this book were fiction, it might be difficult to believe. But, it is a true story which makes it a very engrossing read. Coincidentally, I was reading it last week in New Orleans which made it all the more poignant.
Rating: ****

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