Monday, February 9, 2015

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina, by Rodman Philbrick

As I've mentioned before, I love a good story about Hurricane Katrina. I love a story about Hurricane Katrina EVEN MORE when I see that it's written by Rodman Philbrick. I've been able to get even the most reluctant of readers hooked into Philbrick's characters and novels, so I knew this one would be good.

Zane and the HurricaneZane and the Hurricane has an interesting twist in that Zane is accidentally in New Orleans when Katrina hits. He's visiting a relative he barely knows and has never been to the city before. When the mandatory evacuation notice is announced, he and his great-grandmother attempt to leave the city, but he's left behind when he chooses to follow his canine companion. Zane weathers the storm in his great-grandmother's house, alone except for his dog. Shortly after, he's picked up by some passers-by in a canoe. These aren't Red Cross workers or anything, they're just a man and a girl who were left behind as well. Zane comes to learn that they are acquainted with some unsavory characters, and he's put into some extremely dangerous situations. However, it all works out in the end.

What I love the most about the story is the way the "ugly" parts of Katrina's aftermath are captured, but not dwelled upon. For instance, the trio find themselves near a wealthy section of town. They're hoping to use a phone or bathroom, but instead are accosted by a group of helicopter-borne vigilantes, who are paid to protect the prestigious homes from looters. Zane and his friends are far from looters, but the whole city is suspicious, especially of African Americans.

That's another part of the story that's so interesting - Zane is half white and half black, at a time when racial tensions in the city were heightened. This is constantly brought to light as he struggles to survive in the wake of the hurricane. Additionally, during his time in New Orleans, Zane learns things about his family and his family's past (his father is dead) that he never knew and that help him understand where he's from.

Also Try: Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes; St. Louis Armstrong Beach, by Brenda Woods; Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick

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