As in most books with a catastrophic event, family emerges as an important theme in David Eggers' Zeitoun. The protagonist, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, was born to a large family in Jableh, Syria. At a young age, Zeitoun was forced to cope with the tragic deaths of his father, mother, and treasured brother, Mohammed. Determined to start a new life and family of his own in America, Zeitoun married a converted Muslim named Kathy Delphine in New Orleans, Louisiana. Once Hurricane Katrina struck and Abdulrahman was arrested and taken to prison, the Zeitoun's family was anxious and devasted. The anxiety was due to the fact that he could not be contacted for almost two weeks. The devastation derived from the absurd allegations that allowed the local authorities to incarcerate Zeitoun.
The real damage during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was not material damage, but rather emotional affliction. Ahmad, Zeitoun's older brother from Spain, sent out a fleet emails to Katrina Relief in search of his missing brother who mysteriously hung up during their daily phone call on the 6th of September. Kathy made countless phone calls to friends and relatives in a desperate attempt to find her missing husband. Once she found out Zeitoun was in prison, she was forced to lie to Zeitoun's family in Syria in order to save the family name from embarrassment, misunderstanding, and worrying.
In times of hardship, friends can sometimes be viewed as family. Yuko, Kathy's childhood friend, became a vital part of helping the Zeitoun family, especially Kathy, endure the anxiety that lingered with the each phone call that she received. She allowed Kathy and her kids to stay with her family in Phoenix, Arizona until the entire ordeal was taken care of. Kathy needed Yuko's support to endure the entire aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She stayed with her family in Baton Rouge before she migrated to Yuko's house for refuge. Her family in Baton Rouge was not as supportive as Yuko and the crowded house made her feel uneasy and anxious.
After the entire ordeal, Kathy was not the same. Due to the stress from the post-hurricane situation, she suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Her memory was not nearly as sharp as it once was. Zeitoun also suffered from this condition. He sometimes had flashbacks of the horrific conditions of the jails he was kept in. Both Kathy and Zeitoun suffer from this disorder because of the stress that came from the helpless situation they were in. They both greatly feared for their family's future and well-being till their stress breaking point. The inability to cope with tragic family events was also seen in Mahmoud's death,Zeitoun's father, who died of a heartache due to the sudden death of his prized son, Mohammed.