I read this book in two sittings. I would have finished it in one, but I have a job and need meals to subsist. And as soon as I finished it sometime after midnight, I exhaled loudly and had to talk to my husband. Fortunately he's a night owl, as I had some serious thoughts and emotions that needed verbal processing.
Why? Because this true story is of the "you just can't make this stuff up!" variety. Eggers recounts the plight of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, his wife, Kathy, and their four children during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Zeitoun, who was born and raised in Syria, was an unassuming and hardworking family man. He and his Louisiana born-and-bred wife, Kathy, owned a small business and a number of residential properties near their neighborhood in New Orleans.
When news of Katrina arrived, the Zeitouns, along with all other New Orleanians, had to make tough decisions. Kathy insisted that they leave as a family, but her husband (referred to as "Zeitoun" throughout the book) was a stubborn man and felt that he needed to remain in the city in case his tenants or properties required attention.
Somewhat serendipitously, Zeitoun had purchased a canoe on a whim, previous to Katrina. When his neighborhood drowned in water from the burst levees, Zeitoun took his canoe around the neighborhood, rescuing people and pets. He felt a sense of purpose and was happy to live on his garage roof in order to fulfill his mission to help.
But his story takes a dark turn when he vanishes, and his family, far away in Phoenix, has no idea what has become of him. He has been mysteriously taken off the grid, and the people responsible do everything in their power to make sure he stays that way.
This book is a shocking and disturbing account of chaos, powerlessness, and the loss of civil liberty.
Recommended by Leah Youse