In 2005, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the related breach of the Lake Pontchartrain levees. We all saw the reports. We all saw the wreckage—of property, of humanity. Even with all we saw, all we witnessed, most of us will never truly understand what it was like to survive such devastation and try to move forward.
Reading Chris Rose’s book 1 Dead in Attic, however, might help you better understand what it was like from the inside, looking out. Rose was an entertainment columnist for the Times-Picayune at the time of Katrina’s assault on the Big Easy. He watched his city ravaged and he chose to stay and help rebuild it. And he documented the effort in his columns. This is the retelling of the city’s resurrection through those missives.
In my very first post here about New Orleans, I started with a quote from this book. Even before I’d read it, I knew that Rose understood the inestimable uniqueness of this amazing city. To see New Orleans through his eyes, as the waters and shock receded and the physical and emotional scars surfaced…it’s ache and horror, tears and trauma, laughter and fury…all the spectrum of human emotion, vacillating at supersonic speed between the peaks and valleys of utter despair and ever-resilient hope.
This is not an easy read. Honestly, at times, reading these columns is like bearing witness to the collapse of human spirit. Rose, in fact, did end up going through a complete emotional breakdown because of what he witnessed. His columns bleed that honesty. However, he’s also riotously funny at times, dangerously dark-witted, full of snark and fire at others.
It’s not an easy read, but I believe it’s ultimately a rewarding read.
We can never truly understand what it was like to survive Hurricane Katrina, blessed as we were to be outsiders. However, this is about as honest an “inside look” as you could ever hope to find. It is also one of the most profoundly moving love letters to a city anyone could have ever written.
Final Verdict: I borrowed this from the library, but it will definitely be a future addition to my own collection.