Julie Christine's Reviews > Zeitoun

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
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it was amazing
bookshelves: bio-autobio-memoir, best-of-2010, read-2010, book-club-selection

I am still trembling from rage, disbelief, and sadness -having closed the back cover of this book a few minutes ago. Aside from newspaper and magazine articles that I read in the weeks and months following Hurricane Katrina, this is the first long and complete account I have read of a family's experience in the disaster. It is a tremendous and devastating work, told with such forthrightness, simplicity and respect. I highly recommend it to all.

What strikes me as I read several of the Goodreads reviews that follow is the degree of dissatisfaction expressed by readers for Eggers's approach to this book and his style. This reaction comes from avowed fans of Eggers, who has generated a huge following of hipster, Gen X, Y, yuppie and largely WASPY readers since his breakout works What is the What and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Perhaps I am the last registered Democrat who has not read any Eggers until Zeitoun, but at the very least I went into this book with zero expectations of the story I would find or of the writer who assembled it.

Now that the reading is over, I have little sense of Eggers's voice, which is one precise reason why I rate this so highly- the story is not his, it is that of the Zeitoun's. Eggers served as a conduit and his skill as a writer is apparent in how quickly one forgets he is there.

I also reserve judgment of the actions of Zeitoun, never once questioning his desire to remain behind in New Orleans to guard his home and to serve as caretaker for the property and possessions of his friends and neighbors. It seemed completely fitting with the character of this brave and proud man. Nor did I have the sense that Zeitoun was presented as or ever considered himself a victim of anti-Muslim backlash following September 11; it is simply and horribly the reality of the world in which he, others of Arab descent, followers of Islam, and those whose skin tone and facial features might possibly identify them as potential threats now live. That these fears didn't appear to have anything to do with his arrest and incarceration doesn't diminish their potency.

This is a love story- love by a man for his wife, children, his community, his business, and for the country he adopted as home. It is a story of shattered hearts and dreams, a tragedy so Shakespearean in scale it seems impossible to believe that is really happened. But it did- and this is just one story, one man, one family. All thanks to Dave Eggers, McSweeney's Books and the Voice from the Storm Project for bringing it to light.


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Reading Progress

December 1, 2009 – Shelved
March 30, 2010 – Started Reading
March 30, 2010 – Shelved as: bio-autobio-memoir
March 31, 2010 – Shelved as: best-of-2010
March 31, 2010 – Shelved as: read-2010
March 31, 2010 – Finished Reading
June 4, 2010 – Shelved as: book-club-selection

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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Chris Wonderful review!! Actually, you're not the only registered Democrat to read Eggers, I haven't either, although I'm familiar with him and his books. I heard him and Zeitoun interviewed last fall about this book and immediately put it on my "to read" list. I went to the library last night hoping to take it out because it was in on Saturday, but alas, it was gone. Now that ASB has been read, I can start crackin' at my to read list! :-)


Kristine I'm not a registered Democrat and I've read Eggers :)

Julie you should read Eggers What is the What. I think you'd really enjoy it.


Julie Christine Kristine wrote: "I'm not a registered Democrat and I've read Eggers :)

Julie you should read Eggers What is the What. I think you'd really enjoy it."


It's on the list! :)


Daven I agree; the book is Zeitoun's story, not Eggers. A story this compelling doesn't need an author's "voice", per se.


Julie Christine Daven wrote: "I agree; the book is Zeitoun's story, not Eggers. A story this compelling doesn't need an author's "voice", per se."

Thank you for commenting, Daven! Since I wrote this review, I did try What is the What and I was very disappointed- didn't finish, actually. So, Zeitoun may be all that I read of Eggers's works, but it continues to resonate.


Angela This book had me alternately shaking with fury and in tears of sorrow for what happened to Zeitoun. Did you ever end up reading another Eggers book?


Julie Christine Angela wrote: "This book had me alternately shaking with fury and in tears of sorrow for what happened to Zeitoun. Did you ever end up reading another Eggers book?"

This is such a powerful read! I did pick up What Is The What and very quickly put it down. Zeitoun will likely be my only Eggers!


message 8: by Todd (new) - added it

Todd Duren This review is spot on for me, a new fan of Eggers' writing. The style here is spare and careful: it documents rather than pontificates. The series of deep injustices chronicled here are made more powerful by the author's objectivity. Great book.


Julie Christine Todd wrote: "This review is spot on for me, a new fan of Eggers' writing. The style here is spare and careful: it documents rather than pontificates. The series of deep injustices chronicled here are made more ..."
Thank you for the comment, Todd! It is such a powerful read.


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