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Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  523 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
Hurricane Katrina shredded one of the great cities of the South, and as levees failed and the federal relief effort proved lethally incompetent, a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe. As an editor of New Orleans’ daily newspaper, the Pulitzer Prize—winning Times-Picayune, Jed Horne has had a front-row seat to the unfolding drama of the city’s collapse into chaos ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published July 11th 2006 by Random House (first published 2006)
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Apr 23, 2009 rated it liked it
I'm fascinated with New Orleans, and feel like the response to hurricane Katrina was one of our country's poorest moments. I'm setting a good part of a novel in post-Katrina New Orleans, so I'm reading as much as I can of the disaster.

Horne's book is full of poignancy. The content is sad and horrific and devastating. However, he desperately needed an editor (or two or three). A journalist by trade, Horne seemed to find it necessary to completely cross the spectrum in this foray into a book-leng
Aug 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nola
A fairly comprehensive story of:
a) How different people survived and coped (whether riding it out at home, in the dome/convention center, in nearby states, or thousands of miles away).
b) What happened before and after to create such a disaster:
-The engineering and maintenance faults that weakened the levees
-The political spin that bogged down much of the relief and rebuilding
-The lack of communication and abundance of alarmist media that painted the city in such an unflattering light

Having read
Bookmarks Magazine

Jed Horne, metro editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, uses his knowledge of the devastated area to his advantage. In Breach of Faith, he tells some compelling, important stories, despite the amount of coverage that Hurricane Katrina has received over the past year. While the book dutifully describes the events surrounding the disaster, Horne's journalistic skill works against him on occasion. He renders his scenes sharply, if sometimes without passion (as Ceci Connolly puts it, "I found my

May 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ala-notables
For many of us, watching the events following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfold on our TV screens in August of 2005 was an eye-opening experience. The lasting images of Katrina victims on our TVs telling us of their misery and suffering, while the government seemingly did nothing to intervene, sparked national outrage. In all, Katrina left 1,100 people dead, damaged thousands of residences, crashed the city’s water and sewerage infrastructure, took out electricity and mail service for mo ...more
Corinne Zilnicki
Dec 31, 2011 rated it liked it
When Hurricane Katrina struck, I was a bewildered 17-year-old high school senior too swept up in my own angst and outrage to really understand the full scope of the worst natural disaster in American history. I was more concerned with the hurricane's direct and horribly inconvenient effects on my life. All my friends are far away! My school's flooded! I'm crammed into a house with far too many people! I'm scared! This isn't FAIR! So on and so forth. I've been sorely tempted to just erase my emba ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-research
If you're going to read a book about Katrina then this and Jordan Flaherty's Floodlines should give you a pretty good idea of the pandora's box of political, social, and environment issues that emerged in New Orleans after the levees breached. I would also kick in watching Spike Lee's provocative When the Levees Broke and Tia Lessin and Carl Deal's documentary Trouble the Water and Harry Shearer's The Big Uneasy and the second season of Treme. Okay, that's my shortlist. But Horne does a good job ...more
Amy Kannel
Sep 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
UGH. I want those hours of my life back.

The further I got in this, the more I hated it. I have no idea why I bothered to finish--guess I was in denial about how long and awful it was. Horne tried the narrative nonfiction style I so loved, and failed miserably. He was in desperate need of an editor. The entire book was a pile of cumbersome, meandering sentences with so many dependent clauses that by the time I got to the end, I forgot what the subject of the sentence was and had to go back and r
Dec 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
During my first visit to New Orleans I fell in love with the culture, especially the people. My perception of NOLA before this visit was that Bourbon Street was it's only attraction and that Katrina had flooded the entire city including the French Quarter. After talking to many different locals from many different walks of life - several cab drivers, shop owners, waiters, waitresses, bell hops, hotel staff, a young man standing in line (a long line) behind us to get coffee and a lady sitting on ...more
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I found this a generally good nonfiction account of Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath on the people and culture of New Orleans. Best chapters dealt with the stories of people affected by the storm; I especially liked the chapter on how the staff at public Charity hospital downtown did their technology-dependent jobs without electricity. The later chapters bogged down in dealing with back stabbing politicians, litigation hungry lawyers, and the like. Horne's account does not paint a pretty pict ...more
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an amazing book, full of facts as well as personal stories about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and its people.

The author was an editor at a New Orleans daily newspaper and covered the story as it happened - and interviewed dozens of people afterward to round out the picture of what happened both during the storm and afterward, including the total failure of leadership from the city or the feds. (For example - dozens of schoolbuses were available that could have helped ev
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how this book came to my attention - perhaps it showed up in some of the reading I was doing about Hurricane Harvey. I had not been familiar with Jed Horne of the New Orleans Times-Picayune before reading this book, but if I see anything else written by him, I'll be sure to read it too.

Horne does not go into great detail about the actual hurricane itself, instead he concentrates more on the effect on the people of the city. He follows several different families from the approach of
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it
totally respectable journalism but ultimately a little unsatisfying 12 years after the disaster. probably not dude's fault but still feels like the product of a sprint to get out a Book on Katrina. At times feels like a book about people's relationship to property values/money. Cities are economic fantasies, so that plays, but it doesn't exactly sing.
Amy Parsons
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-shelf
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Quite good. Coming up on the 10th anniversary of Katrina's passing this book deserves a re-read. New Orleans is a city without equal and if you've had the privilege of spending time there you can probably attest to this. Horne's attention to detail is what really sells this book for me. I had to start over from the beginning about three times in between breaks before I finished it because I'd forgotten details that I knew would be important later in the work. The book's account of what the Super ...more
Really excellent. I'd give it a 5 except I'd it only covers the period up to just before the next hurricaine season after Katrina. I'd rather it ran further - at least to a full year after the Storm. I was also suprised that there was very little about the controversy surrounding the 1st post-Katrina Mardi Gras (which was a big deal at the time). So, instead of a "5", I'd have to give it a "4.5" if I was allowed to award half points. That being said, this is THE book about the Storm and its afte ...more
Lee Fritz
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Post-Katrina New Orleans is a particular interest of mine as I traveled to the great city a few times before and a few times after the horrible 2005 event. This book was a very well documented study into the people and ideas surrounding the before- during- and after-timeframes of Katrina. Not an uplifting read, but I felt more well informed by this single experience than by all of the news or other outlets put together. Looking back, the breadth of topics covered makes this book seem so comprehe ...more
Sep 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
I'm preparing for my first trip to NOLA this October, so I'm trying to learn more about the city. Obviously, Hurricane Katrina is now a huge part of the city's history, and has spawned many books on the topic. I picked up Horne's book, as it had the best reviews.
I really enjoyed the first half, as it chronicles several different people and their journey through the storm, from evacuees to Super Dome social workers to Mercy Hospital doctors. Where Horne started to lose me was the minute detail o
Guy Choate
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've lived in New Orleans for two years since 2010 and most of the information I have on the storm has been absorbed through day-to-day interaction. This book did a good job of getting down to the nitty gritty of the ordeal that would be too dry for conversation. Unfortunately, it can also be a little dry in a book as well. However, it's good information to acquire. And the first half of the book, which focuses on the specific lives of people as they navigate the actual disaster, is absolutely r ...more
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Jed Horne, a newspaper reporter, explores many issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina. He follows four or five families who lived in New Orleans, a few that made it out, a few who didn't, a few who returned to New Orleans and a few who chose to relocate. He discusses local, state and federal officials and the decisions they made before, during and after the storm. He also discusses the long and short term prognosis for the recovery of New Orleans. Another good book is "Rising Tide" by John Barry. ...more
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
Another book I could not finish. This was supposed to be an interesting account of Hurricane Katrina. I read a bunch of reviews on Amazon. One said “A concise, easy-to-follow insight that is unaffected, balanced and truthful.” So, I thought I was going to read a truthful, unbiased narrative about Hurricane Katrina and the people affected. Instead, I read someone’s opinion with political spin. I kept reading to page 231 hoping there was a shift in style, but there wasn’t. I’m tired of it. There w ...more
Aug 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-life, good
I've recently become very very interested in learning about Hurricane Katrina especially the eye-witness accounts but also what happened to our government and why they failed so miserably. Breach of Faith was a good read on both accounts. I came away with a better understanding of the politics involved - Mayor Nagin's choice to wait before issuing a mandatory evacuation and why, Blanco's decisions and head butting with D.C. to allocate money, etc. I would be very interested in learning more abou ...more
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I read this for a class and maybe it's because we spent half a semester reading it that it seemed to drag on after the first half. Regardless, though, this book is filled to the brim with investigative, compelling facts that taught me much about a situation I knew nothing about. It wasn't a topic or a book I would have explored if not for my class but I'm so glad I did with all I've learned. Still, though, it does get a big draggy and repetitive and it's easy to confuse the characters after a w
Aug 24, 2010 rated it liked it
The writing/reporting style was a little too fractured and non-linear for my liking, but the (true) stories themselves are harrowing and deeply discouraging, but not without hope. The preparedness and response of the Bush administrations FEMA was inexcusable, sinful really, and the human suffering detailed in this book makes that failure palpable. Good exploration (but no resolution) of the ultimate causes for the failure of emergency response, government control, and the levees themselves...ult ...more
Jim Duggan
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
For someone who was trying to learn more about New Orleans and the impact of Katrina, this was a fascinating and insightful account, if somewhat ambitious. The book essentially starts with the weather forecasts and predictions of the hurricane's path, through the hurricane itself and covers the early recovery efforts. I found my interest flagged a bit as I made my way through the book simply because of the breadth of the material; it was overwhelming to try to take it all in.
Still a worthwhile r
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
The first half of this book was a solid 4 to 4 1/2 stars, but then author Jed falls into a great big hole - a discussion of all of the politics swirling around the different individuals and agencies partly responsible for the disastrous aftermath of Katrina and/or working to solve the endless problems - and he doesn't climb back out until the very last chapter of the book. He closes by coming back around to his chronicling of the personal experiences of a dozen or so survivors. That is his stron ...more
Jim Kelsh
Aug 11, 2012 rated it liked it
The local, state, and national response to Hurricane Katrina continues to be a national disgrace. Jed Horne's book details not only this familiar story, but the human stories as well as the human toll...noble and not so noble. Douglas Brinkley's terrific "The Great Deluge" gave us the the first high level view of this disaster; but Horne takes us to the streets. A little wonky towads the end, but a rich and affecting view of the street level tales of survival, greed, and in some cases, some sort ...more
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
After reading this book I finally feel like I have well-formed knowledge of what happened in New Orleans leading up to, and immediately after Katrina. Horne did an excellent job of presenting the events and cutting through all of the crap media spin and politics and just laying it all out there. His account is definitely the least biased that I have read so far, and at least to this reader, it felt like finally placing the blame where it was due. I would recommend this to anyone wanting a better ...more
Shelley Graves
Mar 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
a great from the frontlines story about katrina and the havoc that followed. jed horne bases the book on over 2 dozen interviews and the stories that came from them, stories that span the wards of the city aa well as the various socio-economic, race, gender, and age groups that inhabited them. horne doesnt just tell the stories of new orlean's inhabitants, but he provides and in-depth (sometimes heavy) chronicle of the science behind the levee failures and a fairly low-bias critique of the post- ...more
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Depressing, but very well written, account of hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Horne, who was the city editor for the Times-Picayune, writes with the knowledge and nuance of a local. He does an excellent job humanizing the many people whose lives the disaster overturned, and this book left me shocked at the failure of our response. I hope we don't let this happen again, but I fear we have not learned the lessons that we should have. Which is why this is an important read.
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was attracted to this book because the author was a Times Picayune reporter and their coverage during Katrina was a award winning. The book did not disappoint. As expected it was a detailed account of what went wrong with plenty of blame to go around. However, what I loved most about it was the stories of ordinary people who were swept up in the storm and how the author wove these stories together. Amazing!
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Jed Horne is the author of “Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City,” published by Random House. Born and educated in Massachusetts, Horne began with the Boston Phoenix, and worked in New York in the 1970’s and 1980’s as a writer and editor, primarily with Time Inc. publications.

He moved to New Orleans in the late 1980’s with his wife and two sons. Except for