Arts & Culture

Book Blog Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

BY Mary Silver TIMEDecember 17, 2009 PRINT

Dave Eggers, author of What is the What, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and You Shall Know Our Velocity, writes another wonderful work of human drama.

In Zeitoun, presented in the context of a family biography, Syrian-born Abdulrahman Zeitoun chooses to remain in New Orleans during Katrina to watch over the family property while his wife and children flee the storm.

In the quiet desolation after the hurricane he paddles around the flooded streets in a canoe, helping out those in need, feeding abandoned dogs, and contemplating the future of the ravaged city.

In an unexpected turn of events he is picked up by law enforcement, ostensibly for looting, and is thrown into a makeshift Gitmo-like chain link prison behind the Amtrak station before being transferred (without being allowed a phone call or a hearing, or even having his rights read to him) to a maximum security prison outside of Baton Rouge.

Time passes before his family learns of his fate, and his situation is seemingly made more complicated due to the fact that he is an Arab in a post-9/11 world.

A fascinating story about a man wanting to do right, but caught up in the confusion and government ineptitude that enveloped New Orleans in the days and weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2009) is published by McSweeney’s and is available at

Mary Silver
Mary Silver writes columns, grows herbs, hikes, and admires the sky. She likes critters, and thinks the best part of being a journalist is learning new stuff all the time. She has a Masters from Emory University, serves on the board of the Georgia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and belongs to the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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