As a reader, I am fascinated by stories that describe how people survive and cope when the world they know crumbles away. Often this type of book takes place in the future and has sci-fi elements, but the nationally bestselling Zeitoun by Dave Eggers is a post-apocalyptic tale that’s true. Set in New Orleans during the time of Hurricane Katrina and in the early years of the U.S.’s war on terror, Zeitoun lets you experience the flooding and devastation of the city, watch the enactment of a military state, and feel the confusion and fear from Katrina’s victims.
While his family flees the city before the storm, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American landlord who owns a painting and contracting business, decides to stay behind to look after his properties and work-sites. He is able to weather the hurricane in his home, but then the dangerous floodwater arrives. After moving everything of value he can to the second floor of his house, Zeitoun journeys out into the newly water-filled city in his old canoe. He rescues neighbors, feeds stranded dogs, and reunites with some of his friends who also stayed in the city. Luckily, there is a working phone in one of his rental properties and he faithfully calls his anxious wife every day at noon.
One day Zeitoun stops calling. His wife hears nothing from him for almost two weeks. She starts to believe he is among New Orleans’ rising death toll until she gets a call from a missionary who tells her that he saw Zeitoun locked up in a jail cell. How Zeitoun got there is a suspenseful story of a series of injustices suffered by a Muslim American man caught up in the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina.
Similar to the hit Netflix series Making a Murderer, Zeitoun illustrates how the criminal justice system can sometimes go terribly wrong, especially in a time of crisis. Also, the flashbacks Eggers includes of Zeitoun’s former life in Syria give a personal view into the country we hear about so often in the news.
Check out Zeitoun and other gripping, thought-provoking stories of real life survival at the Sioux City Public Library.
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