Ron Baird's Reviews > Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans

Nine Lives by Dan Baum
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Dec 04, 2009

it was amazing
Read in December, 2009

Author Dan Baum has written a wonderful book that should be considered the Great American Novel for this century. And it's not even fiction; it's true. Let me explain: The book profiles the lives of nine people in New Orleans who lived through both Hurricanes Betsy (1969) and Katrina (2005).

The reason it should be considered fiction is that it has the narrative drive of the best fiction, engrossing readers in the intimate lives of these characters who are fascinating in their own right, all but one of which are written in third-person simple, culminating in their glued-to-your-seat survival of hellish cataclysm of the hurricane that destroyed much of New Orleans and cost untold numbers of lives.

And it is the Great American Novel because it reveals a large slice of American life that most of us are unaware of: the bureaucratic/political bungling, malfeasance and corruption of all levels of society, the insularity but more importantly the spirit and heroism of the people of New Orleans. A people who endured the complete breakdown of the social structure and infrastructure of society. A period arguably worse that the 9-11 attacks because we, as a people, allowed it to happen.

What makes it so good is Baum's approach to the story--finding and spending hundreds of hours with each person, letting them tell the story of their lives. If they held anything back it's hard to see what it might be. It's also difficult to see how they agreed to reveal so much, but Baum explains that's what New Orleans is all about:stories.

This book should be on the short list for every major book award out there. Read it. You won't be sorry.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Renee Thompson Excellent book. Wish I'd been able to be at his talk!


Heather Ormsby I read it myself and completely agree.


Susan Q I agree with Ron Baird. Nine Lives reads like fiction but is fact. I could not put it down.


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