Saturday, April 30, 2011

43. "House of Sand and Fog" by Andre Dubus III

Dubus III, Andre. House of Sand and Fog. New York: Vintage Books, 1999. Print.

365 pages

Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

House of Sand and Fog is about an intense battle over ownership of a seaside California bungalow. Kathy Nicolo, the original owner, loses the home after a tax error by the county. Mr. Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian air force, buys the house at an auction for a third of its value.

The Behrani family is exiled in the U.S. after the fall of the Iranian government and they are in a dire financial situation. Unable to find a job and feeling pressure to keep up royal appearances, Mr. Behrani plans to sell the bungalow and start a business in real estate as a means of keeping his family off the street. The battle that ensues between the Behrani family and Kathy escalates to a chilling climax.

This novel is great study on how even the smallest of decisions (throwing away unopened mail in Kathy’s case) can cause a person’s entire life to unravel. It is that small tug on the loose thread and suddenly, it all comes undone.

Something I really appreciate about Dubus’ writing is his vivid description. It isn’t just vivid, but it is real. He describes things in a way that makes sense, and it really feels like you are right there in the story.

“I looked out the window to see where we were and my own candlelit reflection looked back. On the other side was night and all the lights of San Francisco spread out below. I drank the rest of the wine from my glass and I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so free of all the shit that pulled at me like the gravity of two planets. I was feeling some of the wine, but not much. I’d eaten half of my baked potato and chicken. I looked back at Les and I could see he’d been staring at me” (Dubus, 116).

Another talent Dubus illustrates is the ability to shift voices. The narration moves between Kathy and Mr. Behrani and is told in first person point of view. There is a distinct difference between Kathy’s voice and Behrani’s voice and the difference in voice is intricately connected to differences in culture. This aspect of the novel is absolutely brilliant.

I am planning to read a lot more of this writer’s work and I highly recommend House of Sand and Fog.

4.5 darts out of 5
Bookshelf project status: KEEP

Sunday, April 17, 2011

42. "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran

Gibran, Kahlil. The Prophet. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1923. Print
96 pages
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

The Prophet
is a meditation on different parts of life. A small town is saying goodbye to their prophet and ask him a series of questions about love, marriage, freedom, friendship and more. In response to each question, the prophet has a philosophical and wise answer.

The answers the prophet provides are thought provoking and often surprising. It is understandable why Gibran is one of the best-selling poets of all time. (I think he only trails behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu). I plan on keeping this text and reading it over and over. It takes multiple readings (at least for me) to let the words and ideas really sink in.

If you are interested in reading it, there is an online version of the book here.

5 darts out of 5
Bookshelf project status: KEEP.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

41. "The Almost Moon" by Alice Sebold

Sebold, Alice. The Almost Moon. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2007.
291 pages
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

Alice Sebold is the author of the bestselling novel The Lovely Bones. The Almost Moon is her most recent publication and was debuted in 2007. The Almost Moon is about Helen Knightly who murders her mentally ill mother by smothering her with a towel.

I have not read The Lovely Bones, but I was not impressed with Sebold's second novel (The Almost Moon). The book traces the twenty four hours after Knightly's murder and the flashbacks (tangents) she has about her relationship with her now-dead mother.

This book has plenty of shock and awe, but the writing is clumsy and messy. The characters are drab and the narrative's voice is unoriginal and flat. The constant transitions between past and present tense are amateur and unimaginative.

Bookshelf Project Status: DONATED (to my university's writing club)
1 darts out of 5