Rivlin’s valuable book is among the first to relate, in clear and scrupulous detail, the decisions that have brought us this far, and to identify those who made them ... Rivlin is a sharp observer and a dogged reporter. He is unerringly compassionate toward his subjects — even [former Mayor] Nagin, who recently began serving a 10-year sentence for corruption at a federal prison in Texas. But Rivlin’s most valuable journalistic skill is his acute sensitivity to absurdity. He is particularly piqued by the absurdities of racial and economic injustice.
Katrina is at its heart a detailed chronicle of failure. Rivlin is unsparing in his chronicling of certain politicians, including former Mayor Ray Nagin, now in federal prison on wire fraud, bribery and money laundering convictions ... Rivlin does an admirable job keeping the political personal and helping readers understand how deeply and devastatingly Katrina affected everyone in the city. He also delves into the racial politics of New Orleans after the storm, especially the fears in the black community that white elites were trying to prevent their neighborhoods from coming back.
[Rivlin] manages to pack into a lean, taut narrative the heartbreaking setbacks, thwarted dreams and the confounding, repeated inability of anybody in power to either get things done or transcend festering social divisions ... As with the finest works of journalism, Rivlin’s book deploys the tools of his trade to illuminate the segment of history he examines – and make us wonder about the things we all have in common with those in New Orleans.