Paul's Reviews > Zeitoun
Definitely compelling -- once we get to the storm. The book starts off pretty slow and unsatisfying. Eggers needs to establish these characters, needs to make us care, but he does so with vast brushstrokes punctuated with only the occasional specific detail for balance. The problem is it's pure exposition and summary. In part I of the book there's virtually no scene. This made it extremely difficult to invest myself completely in the book. While I got an idea of who the Zeitouns were, I never really felt drawn into the book itself. I was bored, in other words. There are a number of flashbacks to Zeitoun's life in Syria, none of which I really found interesting. So, I slogged through and waited for the storm. Which, the storm itself isn't where the drama comes from here. The storm simply happens, and the aftermath propels the story forward. Zeitoun's home is uptown, away from where it seems the most extreme damage occurred. The water level simply rises, and he stays on the second floor or else on the roof. Which isn't a criticism, just a summary. And then this isn't even what drives the real drama. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say something happens to Zeitoun, and it reveals what a mess Katrina was from a governmental/bureaucratic standpoint; that's, I think, the point of the book, and it does hit pretty hard. So in that sense, it's a successful book. I continued to think about it after I finished reading it. Eggers's reporting is extensive and there don't seem to be any holes or details left uncovered. I think I just wanted stronger writing throughout. Bolder, more punchy sentences driving the narrative. The tale sort of tells itself; I wanted more from the author as author.
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