“Naked: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane Katrina,” by Julie Freed

Julie Freed

Reviewed by Chris Timmons

Normally, it is appropriate to take the squeamish position when reading about someone’s private life—the invasion of personal space being a violation of personal dignity.

But when someone offers a memoir, what is the squeamish to do? Rather hope that it is not too raw, too confessional.

Julie Freed begins her memoir Naked: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane Katrina with a quotation by the late poet Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be un-lived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Initially upon reading Angelou’s comment you might find it tautological, and perhaps not altogether coherent. Once you read this wrenching portrait of betrayal, rage, heartache, and natural havoc completely through, however, it (Angelou’s quotation) becomes much clearer—though you may still indict it for its considerable hint of faux profundity.

Julie Freed, a mathematician and university professor in Mississippi, writes of her life during, before, and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

She writes of the coming of Hurricane Katrina with quiet force, which foreshadows the ruin of her marriage and stable life.

But it is the announcement of her husband Conner’s bizarre demands by e-mail that quickly establishes the direction of Freed’s memoir: “Well, you know, I kind of have a thing for boobs. And I’m thinking it would really help me if you would have a boob job. You know not a real huge Dolly Parton one or nothing. But a few sizes bigger, you know.”

This boob talk represents the spiraling out of control of an alcoholic, sleazy, and selfish husband, an indifferent father to his one year-old Genoa, against the backdrop of the worst hurricane in modern history—a Category 4 force of nature.

Throughout the memoir, Freed gives the reader a sense of the impending doom, although it would be years in the making. As a meditation on bad timing and callousness, however, this threat to divorce ranks high among vicious marital acts.

Freed covers her courtship years, the nearly decade-long turbulence of her marriage, her material losses and fights with cheapskate insurance companies and with the hopelessly disorganized Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the divorce proceedings, and the effort to put her life together after both her divorce and the hurricane wreckage.

This story has genuine poignancy. It is no wonder Freed’s memoir has received the Bronze Medal for Best Memoir in Readers’ Favorite and 65 Five-Star reviews on Amazon.

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