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Publisher's Summary

This book presents the fullest account yet written of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Rooted in a wealth of oral histories, it tells the dramatic but underreported story of a people who confronted the unprecedented devastation of sixty five thousand homes when the eye wall and powerful northeast quadrant of the hurricane swept a record thirty-foot storm surge across a seventy-five-mile stretch of unprotected Mississippi towns and cities. James Patterson Smith takes us through life and death accounts of storm day, August 29, 2005, and the precarious days of food and water shortages that followed. Along the way the narrative treats us to inspiring episodes of neighborly compassion and creative responses to the greatest natural disaster in American history.
The heroes of this saga are the local people and local officials. In often moving accounts, the book addresses the Mississippi Gulf Coast's long struggle to remove a record-setting volume of debris and get on with the rebuilding of homes, schools, jobs, and public infrastructure. Along the way readers are offered insights into the politics of recovery funding and the bureaucratic bungling and hubris that afflicted the storm response and complicated and delayed the work of recovery. Still, there are ample accounts of things done well, and a moving chapter gives us a feel for the psychological, spiritual, and material impact of the eight hundred thousand people from across the nation who gave of themselves as volunteers in the Mississippi recovery effort.
The book is published by University Press of Mississippi
©2012 University Press of Mississippi (P)2013 Redwood Audiobooks
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Rodney on 08-28-17


First a hint on the narration - while I agree it's awful there is a very simple fix, change your playback speed in the audible app to 1.25x - if you do that the narration actually sounds normal, maybe a tiny bit quicker than someone would normally talk, but in this case it actually sounds correct. No idea if there was an issue with the recording, like someone has it running at like 80% normal speed, but give it a try, the audio sounds completely normal at 125% speed.

So with the narration fixed here's my comment on the book.

I was wanting a book that went more into the evacuation efforts, stories of the day of the storm, maybe some details on what was going on behind the scenes - this book offers almost none of that. This book is a tiny bit about the hurricane and then mostly a story about the clean-up. The person writing the book is clearly pretty far to the left since their answer to every issue is just give people, even if they don't deserve it, other people's money. You didn't buy insurance on your beach home - well not to worry, the government should pay for it. You're too "poor" to afford insurance for your beachfront condo - well not you're probably, the government should pay for it - that is basically the theme over and over and over again. The author seems to think you carry zero responsibility for your own actions and everyone else should pay for the mistakes you made.

So based on that it's about a zero star book, so let me explain the rest and why I gave it three stars. Despite the author not offering much of any insight into what was going on behind the scenes at the federal level he has some nice local stories and stories I've never heard before. I'm a very rare 5th generation Floridian and it was very cool to learn about the huge role that Florida played in helping with the effort while FEMA was still getting it's act together. I simply didn't know all the supplies and the huge amounts of money and manpower the state of Florida sent without any hesitation, nor waiting for federal money, they just went and worried about all the other stuff later.

On the local level it's always great to hear stories about people and companies helping themselves, and that happened everywhere. The stories about local banks basically operating on an IOU system was tremendous, and I wish those banks were here locally where I am since I would do business with them. The huge number of churches that worked in the rescue effort and sent food/supplies and manpower, again it's just great to hear. Finally giving a lot of praise to the Salvation Army is great and they deserve it. The Red Cross in this book doesn't look good - and frankly that's been the case in every big event since 9/11 - while the Salvation Army gets much less praise (including Target removing the Salvation Army santas from the front of their buildings - keep that in mind next time you decide to shop).

So the stories of individuals doing good, of churches, of small business (and big business) doing good - those are great - but the book is extremely unbalanced. Again and again the author praising giving people "free" money (other people's money) and the author makes zero attempts to explain why the state and Feds were not interesting in handing out blank checks. We know from studies done post Katrina that somewhere between many hundreds of millions of dollars on the low end, to 2-billion dollars on the high end, was lost to fraud. The author makes no effort to explain the massive amount of fraud that took place and how that was impacting the recovery. Also the author does almost nothing to explain many of the issues FEMA was having with this event. While the author does note FEMA was much too understaffed to deal with (by far) the largest natural disaster in American history, the author still then just repeats his criticisms without seemingly taking into account his own comments. FEMA was a mess, but in part it was because everyone needed help immediately and according to it's own rules it had to set up outside of the storm zone and simply getting people to the worst hit areas was a huge undertaking. People are repeatedly, non-stop, over and over and over again told that in the event of a hurricane hitting you can not expect any help for at least 3 days and you need to have at least 3 days or food and water available to you. I've lived in FL my entire life that is rammed into you constantly - if you stay you are on your own.The author starts quoting a politician saying that FEMA isn't getting there fast enough (they were there in about 3 days) and starvation is a risk... Now I'm not a starvation expert but I do know you're not starving in 3 days - so on stuff like that the author didn't offer any balance nor did he put the responsibility back onto the people that stayed in areas with mandatory evacuations.

Anywho I could go on and on but basically I wanted to give a hint at the top, which is incredibly important - just change your playback speed and the audio is fine, it literally sounds like it was recorded too slow and speeding it up makes it sound more normal (and I normally don't like speeding up audio).

This book is worth reading if you want to hear about how small government can be a good thing, how people help each other in times of crisis and how not all business is bad business - and I think despite the author's clear political leanings he did a good job in trying to be balanced on that stuff.

However this is a very incomplete look at the events - lots are left out and there isn't much about the lead up to the storm and from the storm itself that you couldn't have just read in a newspaper.

3 out of 5 stars...

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4 out of 5 stars
By Cathy P. on 12-29-16

Great content but poorly narrated

What made the experience of listening to Hurricane Katrina: The Mississippi Story the most enjoyable?

My husband volunteered in Hattiesburg, MS, so we knew how widespread the damage was, but the focus with Katrina is always on New Orleans. I was happy to see good coverage of other areas affected by this disaster.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Claton Butcher?

Someone who does more than read the words off the page with an occasional lilt thrown in for variety.

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