Five Days At Memorial

November 6, 2013 Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction 9

17704902Title: Five Days At Memorial
Author: Sheri Fink
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: The author did a great job sharing enough information about each person to convey that these are real people, a talent that increased the tension of this harrowing story.

Five Days At Memorial is a reconstruction of the time following Hurricane Katrina that survivors spent at the hospital, largely without electricity and with decreasing supplies of food and water. Horrific mismanagement led to a situation so desperate and chaotic that later some doctors and nurses were accused of having euthanized some of their patients. The second half of the book deals with the investigation and trials following that accusation.

The first thing the author did right was pick a captivating, if horrifying, story to tell. This book was intense! Everyone was constantly making tough decisions. Sometimes I wanted to scream I was so frustrated by administrators who were obviously (in hindsight) making very poor decisions. At other times I was deeply moved by people’s compassion. Even the second half, detailing the investigation and trials, was emotionally engaging because of the number of people whose lives were going to be affected by the outcome.

I think the main reason this story had such an impact was because the author did such a great job making people come to life for me. The primary focus of the story was on only a few of the many individuals trapped at Memorial. This made it easier to keep track of who was who and what was going on. However, even characters who were mentioned tangentially were often fleshed out with some small details about their personal life. I was very impressed by the author’s ability to share just enough to make me remember that these “secondary characters” were real people without distracting from her main narrative. Given the emotional impact of the story, the ending felt like a bit of a let down, but I think that’s simply one danger of telling a true story. Not everything always works out in a satisfying, this is the end of the narrative kind of way in real life.


9 Responses to “Five Days At Memorial”

  1. tanya

    I have heard so many good things about this book. I have it out from the library right now, so that means I should start reading it any day now. Can’t wait.

    • DoingDewey

      Next time you’re in the mood for non-fiction, you could also check out a recent list I posted with some of my favorites and that post also includes a link to a Non-Fiction November event where a bunch of bloggers will be posting about their favorites, so there are definitely lots of good options out there 🙂

  2. RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

    I thought this book was just fabulous. I love how she compared other hospitals with tragedies and what they did, some being MUCH more effective and saving many more lives! Hopefully Katrina and books like Sheri Finks will force people to take a better look at emergency plans!

    • DoingDewey

      You’re right! I think the comparison to other hospitals made it very clear just how badly wrong things went in this case and how things could have been done better.

  1. Non-Fiction Friday | Doing Dewey

    […] a lot of award winning books, but my experiences have been so good (The Emperor of All Maladies, Five Days At Memorial) I’d love to read […]

  2. Nonfiction Friday - Doing Dewey

    […] at one time that there was going to be a limited series based on Five Days at Memorial (review here), but this announcement that actress Cherry Jones is joining the series was a reminder of this […]

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