Telling Your Story

Where Fact Can Be Fiction

I’ve been in a book group for ten years. I’ll admit that the book discussion aspect of our meetings is fairly small compared to the gossiping. But that’s what is great about books. They bring people together.

Being part of a book group means that I read books that I wouldn’t normally choose. It’s a bit like a blind date. Sometimes the book doesn’t resonate with me, other times I’m glad that it was put in my hands.

Last month, we read Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (Vintage Books, 2009 – bestseller). This is a non-fiction account of a family during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. There were parts of it that I skipped because it went into more detail than interested me but at the end I was quite enamoured by this family and what they went through during this horrific event. This was exacerbated by the fact that they are Muslim and were viewed suspiciously because of 9/11.

Being eternally curious, I went straight to Google when I finished the book. I was interested to know about what the family was doing six years later. I like to think that I am not easily shocked but what I found on Google was nothing like the image I had conjured in my head after reading the book. It proved to me that fact can be stranger than fiction and that we can’t believe everything that we read. I’m sure that Dave Eggers probably feels a bit duped too, since the Zeitoun’s portrayed themselves as the perfect couple.

As a writer and a reader, this raised so many questions in my head and reminded me that memory is a movable beast and can look different from every angle. Sometimes it’s what we leave out that distorts the truth.

Sometimes there is more truth in fiction than real stories.

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