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

1 comment:

Slidecutter said...

I rarely get the opportunity to become involved with a good book these days but, after reading your review, this "House of Sand and Fog" piqued my interest.

As soon as I can push a little bit of life aside, this book will be on my priority reading list.