Saturday, December 3, 2011

1 Dead in Attic

1 Dead in Attic, by Chris Rose.

This is no environment for a wuss like me. We reporters go to other places to cover wars and disasters and pestilence and famine. There's no manual to tell you how to do this when it's your own city.

And I'm telling you: it's hard.

It's hard not to get crispy around the edges. It's hard not to cry. It's hard not to be very, very afraid.

Chris Rose was a journalist for The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. He and his family got out of town and eventually settled with his parents in Maryland, but he came back to New Orleans quickly after Katrina to write columns for the newspaper. 1 Dead in Attic is a collection of his columns, in a semi-chronological order, and it helps us to get a sense of the city from 2005-2006 as a whole. The novel title refers to what was written on doors in the city - the number of people dead, the number of pets dead, and the number of people found alive - and it was written on a door that Chris Rose saw while bicycling around the city one day.

I was a college freshman in 2005, starting out at the University of Michigan, and I knew that New Orleans had been ravaged by a hurricane, but I didn't know the extent of it until I visited a friend in New Orleans last month, and also read this book. Most of the areas we went to (Lakeview, downtown, Uptown, Mid-City, etc.) were fine, but in 2005 and 2006 they were not. There's a Starbucks near the Lakeview area that has a line painted on it, wrapping around the building, that is almost to its roof, and it simply says "Katrina" next to it; this was the highest that the water got up to in 2005.

The novel was interesting but I think residents or former residents of New Orleans would enjoy it more than I did, as a lot of the places' names were still foreign to me. The writing is very good, though, and paints a picture of a city in tumultuous times that was just then, in 2006, trying to rebuild itself.

3 stars out of 5.


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