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Summary

In his new nonfiction book Zeitoun, New York Times best-selling author Dave Eggers tells a Hurricane Katrina story unlike any written before.

When HurricaneKatrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun - a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four - chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the eerie days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and rescuing those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared.

Eggers's riveting work, three years in the making, follows Zeitoun back to his childhood in Syria and around the world during his years as a sailor. The book also traces the story of Zeitoun's wife Kathy - a boisterous Southerner who converted to Islam - and their wonderful, funny, devoted family. When Zeitoun vanishes, Kathy is left to make sense of the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible.

©2009 Dave Eggers (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"Imagine Charles Dickens, his sentimentality in check but his journalistic eyes wide open, roaming New Orleans after it was buried by Hurricane Katrina ... Eggers's tone is pitch-perfect - suspense blended with just enough information to stoke reader outrage and what is likely to be a typical response: How could this happen in America?" (Timothy Egan, The New York Times)

What listeners say about Zeitoun

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting and horrifying

This is a good book, which tells the terrible story of how this poor man was treated by the US authorities. It is also a rather telling account of how said authorities dealt with the aftermath of Katrina. It was mostly a good read, but it left me annoyed, frustrated and quite horrified.

1 person found this helpful

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Great story. Scary to think this can happen.

It would be interesting to hear the story from a white American family during the Katrina tragedy. I bet there would be no story. Disgusting how they treated the Zeitoun family.

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    5 out of 5 stars

A must read

This book is amazing! Very sad, but relevant to everyone. A book about corrupt politics and how anyone’s lives can abruptly change. Great real life perspectives and it’s hard to stop reading.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Author of misfortune

Although I am by no means a supporter of the George W Bush administration, a natural lefty and, in American terms, a Democrat - this supposed frontal assault on red-neck, jingoistic, Republicanism literally in the wake of Hurricane Katrina seems to end up scoring more own goals than home runs. Despite repeated instructions on the part of the authorities to leave New Orleans the supposed ‘hero‘ of the book chose of his own free will to stay in town and look after his property. Those ‘oppressing‘ Police, National Guards and Civil Authorities were then obliged to put their own lives in peril by being obliged to go into the city to effect ‘rescues,‘ in the process running the risk of natural dangers and those from the albeit very small number of criminals who used the opportunity to loot their way through the wreckage. His wife in the meantime, faced with the fact that while she chooses to make a visible and daily symbol of her devotion to an all-loving God but cannot stand to be in the same house as her mother and immediate family even for a few days in a time of crisis, decamps over 1,000 miles away.At worst American society can display all that is deplorable in human nature - racism, paranoia and a total disregard for personal liberty when it gets in the way of the perceived ‘greater good.’ Here, however, a total disregard for the safety of others, the needs of the wider family members, a delusion of persecution and unwarranted self-importance are all on display and, unfortunately, whilst one finger points forward, there are three fingers pointing back to the accuser.

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  • Darwin8u
  • 08-10-13

Something bold, ebullient, yet quiet

There is something bold and yet quiet about 'Zeitoun' the book and Zeitoun the man. There is also something bold about Dave Eggers. I don't always like the flashier parts of Eggers. The sparkle and the shake of 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius' or the fur-covered binding of 'The Wild Things' didn't really capture me like they did some. But after reading 'A Hologram for the King' I've started recognizing it for what it is -- David Eggers is simply enthusiastic, ebullient about ideas and people. He can't help himself. He has an idea and he wants it big or bigger. He wants Zeitoun's story written across the sky. For most of us the wish or desire is enough. It fills us up. We are done there and can go to bed and rest comfortably. The brilliance of the idea quickly gets burned out as the sun of the rest of our lives burns our dreams away. The brilliance (or genius) of David Eggers is his ability to follow up on these quirky little ideas. He has tremendous follow-through. He doesn't forget, he doesn't dispose, he uses and crafts and makes and publishes.

Not every book written by Eggers will be genius, but his ENERGY is always genius. His momentum is always brilliant. And, 'Zeitoun' the book was brilliant. It showed the beauty of people and the inhumanity of bureaucracies. It is the story of America. How America can contain both the best and the worst of humanity, often lit by the same light and drowned/baptized by the same waters.

31 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 07-02-10

Compelling event, plodding delivery

This is two books in one. The first is a mildly interesting study of the life of Zeitoun, a Syrian/American who marries an American woman who has converted to Islam. They work hard, overcome a lot of common obstacles and make a good life for themselves and their children. They live in New Orleans and get blindsided by Katrina just like hundreds of thousands of others. This book includes enough engaging biographical material for a nice feature story in a magazine.

The second book is the compelling story of Zeitoun's harrowing experience when he stays in New Orleans to protect his property and lend a helping hand to others. The meat of this narrative begins about two thirds of the way through the book and progresses through a lot of day by day detail which is chilling and sometimes appalling. Finally there is a kind of prolonged post-mortem.

Unlike the other reviewers, I thought the material, which is very powerful, was poorly served by the story telling. I understand that it was important to introduce Zeitoun and his wife and establish them as people we cared about, but this was done with so many mundane details and somewhat jumbled flashbacks that I nearly gave up before I got to the point of the story. Clearly the other reviewers did not have the same problem, so it may just be that I don't enjoy discursive writing.

I also found the vocal narration plodding and uninspired.

Nonetheless, I am glad I stuck with the book until I got to the story at the heart of the piece. It is an authentic, "How could this happen in America," story.

29 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 25-10-09

Excellent Story of Government Failure in Katrina

Eggers is an excellent teller of other people's stories, as illustrated by his brilliant "What is the What," the story of Sudanese refugee Valentino Achak Deng. In Zeitoun, he tells the story of a Syrian-American, a successful New Orleans contracter for years, who is wrongfully imprisoned by FEMA in the wake of Katrina. The contrast between the warmth, vitality and manifest goodness of the Zeitoun family, and the impersonal brutality and incompetence of the "military occupation" authorities who took over New Orleans is striking and sobering. A "must listen," even if "What is the What" is a richer story and slightly better narrated.

18 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 22-03-10

Zeitoun

After reading this well written book- I experienced a change in my heart. It provided knowledge that I had forgotten and renewed my love for all of God's people.
I had three good friends of the Moslem faith during my college days. I dated one young man studing to be a physician and he was a good friend. We never discussed religion because we knew we did not agree. We had fun and he was a good man.
After 9-11 my heart changed and I felt a resentment toward the people I saw cheering in the streets on TV. The resentment suddenly spread to all people of the Moslem faith. The feelings were not hate but anger and a blaming this group of people for the events. I think many American feel this way and really do not realize that there are so many wonderful Moslem people in the USA that are a great asset to all of us. Just as we have American that do awful things, the same is true of all Religious groups.
The Moslem people are good people that love and care for their families and for others.
After reading this book I felt shame for my feelings and knew I was wrong in my judgements toward this Faith. It was healing to my soul and I highly encourage others to read this book. I am a better American and person.

16 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Chris
  • 15-12-09

when one asks what happened during katrina...

there are many stories that one could use and amplify to help tell the story of katrina, but the zeitoun family's story is one that will be shared for generations. eggers does a wonderful job weaving family history, a host of interviews and perspectives in this fantastic book. the narrator was good, and not distracting. i highly encourage you to spend your time with the zeitoun family.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Andy
  • 26-09-09

terrific book about a stunning failure

Difficult to believe what happened here could actually happen in America. Nonetheless, Eggers tells a very descriptive story about how one man got caught in a vortex of bureaucratic incompetence in the weeks after Katrina.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David E. Corbin
  • 23-09-09

Eggers is a great storyteller

Dave Eggers knows how to tell a story. The story is compelling and thought provoking. This story confirms that old adage that the truth is stranger than fiction. The narration is spot on.

9 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Elnsie
  • 22-03-11

Read it. Good Story, Boring Listen

I am 2/3 of the way through, and it so slow. So many of the details are unnecessary and repititious. If I read it, I would skim quickly past those parts, but you can't when you listen. Either listen to an abridged version or read this book. Warning: it will take forever if you listen! This is about the 80th book I have listened to and this is only the second time I wished it were abridged. The story is worthwhile, just not in this format.

8 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Chrissie
  • 27-05-13

One family's experiences during Katrina

I do not think I am the one to judge this book. I am not an American. I am not a Muslim. I am not religious and lack the faith spoken of in this book. Furthermore, I do not think this book adequately looks at what happened before, during and after Katrina. It studies one family’s experiences, only that. Zeitoun disobeyed the mandatory evacuation order.

Nothing wrong with the narration by Firdous Bamji.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • JMM
  • 27-02-10

I expected more from Dave...

I love Dave Eggers' stuff, but this was flat out boring. Chapter upon chapter of hand wringing and describing how Kathy waits for the phone to ring... Arghhh... I'm only finishing this listen out of apathy. Not recommended.

7 people found this helpful