three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
By: 
Jed Horne
user_rating: 
0

Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City

A-Breach of FaithJournalist Jed Horne offers an indictment of government—from President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security to FEMA director Michael Brown to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin—in his analysis of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. But determined and heroic individuals stand out: Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, who challenged the assertion that the city’s levees were sound; Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke, who helped to treat 450 patients in Charity Hospital without electricity; and Patrina Peters, disabled mother of two, whose story frames Horne’s narrative. Peters witnessed the horror firsthand from the roof of her home in the now-infamous Lower Ninth Ward, an indelible symbol of all that went wrong when Katrina struck.
Random House. 412 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 1400065526

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"[Horne] offers something different to the dialogue, something even worth reading. … Breach of Faith is not a book about politics, or about blame, but is most powerful when Horne’s honest, rarely angry writing assesses the bureaucratic incompetence and failure that compounded the hurricane’s mess." Robert Little

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Breach of Faith may not be the definitive account of Katrina’s impact on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast—it is too early for that—but it sets the benchmark for future books on the subject. The breathtaking sweep of the reporting, the epic drama of the narrative, the thousand acts of heroism, courage, folly, and crime that it chronicles provide a vivid mosaic of one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike a US city—a disaster that human negligence and incompetence turned into a catastrophe." Tom Sancton

Houston Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"As Jed Horne so effectively demonstrates in Breach of Faith, the most compelling book-length effort to document what went wrong before and after the storm blasted New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Katrina was nothing less than a disaster made by man. … The great strength of Horne’s book is the running narrative of Katrina victims, whom he traces as they flee the city, then return, in some cases only to leave again." Allan Turner

USA Today 3 of 5 Stars
"Horne was part of the team of reporters and editors who won two Pulitzer Prizes for Katrina coverage, and he captures with heartbreaking detail how unprepared New Orleans was for the disaster about to happen. … [He] makes his story compelling, often breathlessly suspenseful, though much of it has been told." Anne Rochell Konigsmark

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"New Orleans journalist Jed Horne has provided new insights into how a ferocious storm, governmental ineptitude and racially tinged inequities conspired to permanently jeopardize one of the nation’s cultural gems. … What Breach of Faith often lacks is passion." Ceci Connolly

New York Times 2 of 5 Stars
"While Mr. Horne touches all the necessary bases, his book is thorough without managing to become more than the sum of its miscellaneous parts. … Breach of Faith is a measured, impersonal, often dispassionate account of news that has since become all too familiar." Janet Maslin

Critical Summary

Jed Horne, metro editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, uses his knowledge of the devastated area to his advantage. In Breach of Faith, he tells some compelling, important stories, despite the amount of coverage that Hurricane Katrina has received over the past year. While the book dutifully describes the events surrounding the disaster, Horne’s journalistic skill works against him on occasion. He renders his scenes sharply, if sometimes without passion (as Ceci Connolly puts it, "I found myself yearning for the soul of the Katrina story, the smelly, quirky, gut-wrenching, deadly truth of a city disintegrating"). Most critics find that Horne has created a readable—and sometimes powerful—record of the event.