A new friend this year, a Muslim international student, bought me Zeitoun for my birthday, and I am very grateful. The last time I read about post-Katrina New Orleans was Douglas Brinkley's book, The Great Deluge in 2006, book report here. But this story did not start with equally destructive force called FEMA. Instead, the book starts with the young boy Abdulraham Zeitoun fishing off the coast of Syria. With frequent flashbacks we learn of his amazing life, his adventures around the world, and his settling down with his wife Kathy in New Orleans and the successful contracting business he founded there. Incidentally, they are Muslim, she an adult convert before meeting him. I appreciate so much how normally Eggers treats their faith. If only everyone's faith could be treated so respectfully, yet causally. Faith pervades so many Americans' lives, yet typically seems ignored or exagerrated, read the Get Religion journalism blog to see what I'm talking about.
Doctors have asked Kathy what she thinks the most traumatic part of the Katrina experience was. She surprised herself and the doctors when she realized that it was after she knew Zeitoun was alive, and had been told he was at Hunt Correctional Center, but wasn't allowed to see him or even know where a court hearing might be held. It was that moment, being told by the woman on the phone that the hearing's location was "private information," that did the most damage."I felt cracked open," she says.That this woman, a stranger, could know her despair and desperation, and simply deny her. That there could be trials without witnesses that her government could make people disappear."It broke me." p.319