“The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast”–having been there

Brinkley, Douglas. “The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast”, Harper Perennial, 2006.

Having Been There

Amos Lassen

Two years ago at this time we knew the name Katrina as a beautiful feminine name. Suddenly on August 27, that changed and Katrina became known as one of the great disasters of the world. I know that to be true—I was there—and so was Douglas Brinkley who wrote Katrina’s biography. I have put off reviewing this book because I thought it might be too painful but now that I am sitting down and writing, I realize that this review could become the catharsis I have needed. It is hard for me to believe that it is already two years ago and that I am in Little Rock, Arkansas and not back in New Orleans. Be that as it may, reading about Katrina is not easy but I did notice today at Barnes and Noble that I may be reading about her for a while—it seems there are a slew of new books out about the storm and this is just the beginning.

Douglas Brinkley wrote one of the first books about the storm and what a book it is. It captures the human aspect of Katrina and gives a close up view of what really went on. Looking back now, I realize that in five hours on August 29, 2005, America changed completely. 150 miles of coastline and one major American city as well as some smaller ones were hit by a powerful storm and it changed the way we look at weather, government, tragedy and each other. Two years later and not much has been done. A half-million homes went underwater, the government mismanaged the entire business and many Southerners lost not only their homes but everything.

It is still too soon to have the definitive book on Katrina. The scope of the storm was so large—there was such chaos, denial and misinformation that it will take a long time to sort the entire affair. Brinkley’s book was the first and will probably emerge as the best as it brings us the narrative and gives the big picture. Reading “The Great Deluge” forced me to remember a lot of what I had chosen to forget. As I read the book I became literally numb but hopeful. Brinkley writes of the heroes and the good guys. This shows me exactly what Anne Frank said that people are basically good.

There is a great deal of background in the book and it thereby provides ways to achieve a greater understanding of what happened. It was hard for me to know what really went on as I had no access to the outside world as I looked out of my fourth floor window and watched the waters rise as New Orleans sunk beneath them.

Brinkley gives a far and unbiased look at what went wrong and it is harrowing to read. His book is well researched and his tales of heroism are amazing. The book s based primarily on first person accounts and media reports. He also conducted intensive interviews with many survivors. There are tales of terror and stories of valor. There is also the author’s analysis of what happened but I am not sure that this is accurate as the book was written very early after the storm. Brinkley lets us know where his own sympathies lie. There are mistakes as we would expect there to be but by and large, this is one of those books that I could simply not put down. Here is a great book that should be read by every American. The writing is fluid and rich in detail and Brinkley breathes life into New Orleans. Here is a story of struggle, redemption, survival and struggle.

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