Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Review of Tom Piazza’s City of Refuge Essay

It was mid-August on a hot summer day hurricane Katrina damaged a city, New Orleans, possibly for a lifetime. The novel: City of Refuge by Tom Piazza gives readers an omniscient point of view of two families lives during this tragic event. The Williams family from the Lower 9th Ward and the Donaldsons originally from the upper Midwest who had made their way to New Orleans share the same traumatic experience; in different ways of the levees breaking from hurricane Katrina changed both of their lives forever. On Friday morning Craig Donaldson saw on the news that Hurricane Katrina had moved into the Gulf, heading in their direction. Craig and Alice, his wife contemplated leaving the following day or the day after for Oxford, Mississippi. Saturday morning started out rocky. Malcolm, their son, woke up with a burning fever. With all of this going on Craig prepared for their evacuation by getting the house in order before Katrina hit on Sunday. Around mid-day they decided to get on the road; unfortunately, the highway was backed up. Craig then decided to take a different route on a two-lane highway; traffic flowed at first but that too got backed up. Due to the extensive amount of traffic and the effects of the storm, they stopped at a hotel. They had wanted to stay with Alice’s parents but there were too many complications of not having enough room space, so her mom says. They waited at the hotel until the weather was clear enough for them to continue driving. Alice’s mother insisted she call her Aunt Jean and Uncle Gus who lived in Chicago. After Alice made the phone call, they decided to make their journey back to the Midwest. When they arrived in Chicago her family presented them with great hospitality and said they could stay as long as they needed. Alice decided to enroll Annie their daughter into school. During this time Alice was still taking care of Malcolm and helping her aunt and uncle around the house. The hurricane took a toll on Craig. One particular day while at his favorite cafe shop called Blue Horizon he noticed everyone appeared to be in a â€Å"happy-go-lucky-mood,† and this began to irritate him. He became upset because everyone took their lives for granted; no one was experiencing what he was going through. Craig became depressed and easily irritated. There would be times where he would take a deep breath and tears would run down his face and he would not know why. He recognized these symptoms and labeled himself as having Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. He started to accept that his home in New Orleans would never be the same. Alice comforted him during this time, even though she was going through the same experience. After time went on, things started turning from bad to good. Craig received a phone call from his old college friend, Peter. Peter suggested that Craig write a column for the â€Å"CHI EYE†. They felt this would be a good way for Craig to vent and write about his evacuation experience as well as his experiences in Chicago. Peter told Craig he would receive $1000 a week for 1500 words. When Craig received his first check, he took Alice out on a romantic date. As weeks went by Alice settled in Chicago; she secretly started searching for apartments and houses. She looked at Chicago as the place where her growing family lived before they went to New Orleans. Alice enjoyed living back in the Midwest; she did not feel that the damaged city of New Orleans was a good place for her kids, and she did not want to live like an â€Å"urban pioneer† for the rest of her life. She was ready to settle down and New Orleans was not the place for her at the time. Alice brought to Craig’s attention that they could not live in her aunt and uncles attic any longer. She told Craig she was looking into their future by house hunting. Craig took the new information as a stab in the back. He felt hurt and betrayed by his wife because she did not want to move back to New Orleans. Craig felt that their family might not be able to make it during this rough time. He contemplated on whether he should leave and return back to what he called home (New Orleans) and break up the family or stay for the kids’ sake and feel like a disintegrate parent. Craig and Alice sat together and started expressing their feelings about how they felt on their current living situation. The heart to heart conversation made him realize he was making the wrong decision for his family. He was caught between starting a new life and returning to their old one. They both experienced self-knowledge during this time and achieved a new basis for themselves. They both realized that they were experiencing the same struggle, stress, and both wanted to be a happy. Although Alice had her opinion of New Orleans, she did miss the town but deep down Craig also wanted to start a new life. Craig has come to accept the idea of walking away from New Orleans; he saw how his friend, Bobby, experienced difficulty letting New Orleans go. Bobby and Jen, friends of the Donaldsons, became defensive when they heard Craig did not want to return to New Orleans because of Alice and their kids and also Alice’s concerns for the overall city. Craig tried to explain from Alice’s point of view why they should not return so that Bobby and Jen would understand. Craig and Bobby had different perspectives on the situation and completely different life styles. Bobby and Jen needed to realize that this was not a safe environment for Craig and Alice’s kids. They remained friends even with their new life differences. Craig returned to New Orleans acknowledging a new perspective; the importance of why he loved the city remained during Mardi Gras.

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