“Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in the Disaster Zone”– An Eyewitness Account

Clark, Joshua. “Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in the Disaster Zone: A Memoir”. Free Press, 2007.

An Eyewitness Account

Amos Lassen

If you try to imagine what Hurricane Katrina was like, you cannot possibly come anywhere close to the horror and the anguish that we went through. I lived through it and find it hard to bring those images back into mind. I often think that it is a period of my life that I do not want to remember.

On the other hand, it was Katrina that caused me to land in Little Rock, Arkansas and my life to take an entirely new path.

Joshua Clark did not leave New Orleans during the storm. Instead he stayed and got together with several others and pooled resources and used their energy in an attempt to save the city. At the time that Katrina hit, Clark was working as a correspondent for NPR and began a project of recording the voices of victims of the storm in the Gulf South. It is these voices that are the spine of this memoir which does not dwell on the horror and devastation of Katrina but shows the compassion, the anguish and the kindness, the madness and the mercy of the people of America.

Written in journalistic style but displaying raw emotion and innocence, Clark tells us of loss and renewal and the ability to bounce back with hope.

There are and there surely will be more Katrina stories. Clark’s book is unique in that it is a love story—a paean to the city he loves. The city was destroyed and lives were torn asunder. Yet Katrina also caused an inner impact that Clark so beautifully gives us in this book. What he writes will wrench your heart but it is all true—it all happened. Not an easy book to read, “Heart Like Water” is poignant and evocative and larger than life. Written in the first person, it is the story of one of the most terrible periods of American history and is entertaining but important as well as a look at how people face change, adjust to it and survive.

There were times as I was reading that I felt like I had a pill in my throat that I could not swallow—the emotional experience was that strong. The book is raw and reveals a look at the people affected by the storm from an angle we have not yet had. Clark relates the happenings of the storm as they happened and we get the truth without sermonizing.

Clark moves from an observer to an active rebel to a mystical madman, a victim of trauma and a political activist. He saw the pain and suffering and he lets us see it. We feel for the people who lost everything (I know how it feels because I lost all except what I was wearing) but we also see a new approach to loss-that which is not lost—the love for a place and its people.

Everyone asks what it was like when the levees broke. Look no further, it is all here in this wonderful memoir of a terrible time.

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