Sunday, August 9, 2009

House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
My edition (different cover)
Norton, 1999
trade paperback, 365 pages
ISBN 13: 9780965024020
contemporary fiction

Random Reading Challenge #1

From the Publisher
In this riveting novel of almost unbearable suspense, three fragile yet determined people become dangerously entangled in a relentlessly escalating crisis. Colonel Behrani, once a wealthy man in Iran, is now a struggling immigrant willing to bet everything he has to restore his family's dignity. Kathy Nicolo is a troubled young woman whose house is all she has left, and who refuses to let her hard-won stability slip away from her. Sheriff Lester Burdon, a married man who finds himself falling in love with Kathy, becomes obsessed with helping her fight for justice.
Drawn by their competing desires to the same small house in the California hills and doomed by their tragic inability to understand one another, the three converge in an explosive collision course.
My Thoughts:

While Dubus is a good writer and gave a different voice to each of his characters, I just can't recommend The House of Sand and Fog. I didn't like any of the characters and had to force myself to finish it just to see how it was going to end. My so-so rating is simply based on how I felt about the novel. I guess it could have rated a recommended based on the quality of the writing, especially in the first part of the book, but it was just w-a-y too depressing. I understand that it is partially a study of flawed characters, but... good grief. I grew to actually actively dislike the characters and I was exceedingly tired of them driving here, driving there, driving some more. Park already!
So-so for this reader


The fat one, the radish Torez, he calls me camel because I am Persian and because I can bear this August sun longer than the Chinese and the Panamanians and even the little Vietnamese Tran. opening

I have been looking into many possibilities; a small restaurant, or a laundry, a video store perhaps. Though I know these American papers, I know what they say of this economy, still I see small shops going out of business on both sides of the bay. And of course we have no money for to buy a house
as well, but there are many auctions in my country. There it is known as the legal way to rob. pg. 17

She also packs for me radishes, bread, one apple, and a small thermos of hot tea. The Panamanians watch me pour the steaming tea into my cup and they shake their heads as if I am a stupid child. They do not know what I know of the heat, that there must be a fire inside you to match the one outdoors. pg. 18

But many nights my sleep does not come when I think of how unwisely I let that sum be burned up, burned because my dear Nadereh could not and cannot bear to let other families know we have next to nothing left from the manner in which we used to live. pg. 19

But I am prepared now to give all the orders necessary until we are out of that pooldar apartment. The rent is paid through the month, two more weeks, but the Behrani family will be discharged this weekend, I promise that. I have a security deposit of three thousand dollars to claim. This leaves a total of six thousand dollars for us after I pay the remaining thirty-five on our new property. Tomorrow, Friday, I will receive my checks from this store and from the Highway Department, and I will leave these jobs with no notice. Torez and Mendez, and even Tran, can watch my backside as I go, as Genob Sarhang Behrani prepares for a new life, a life in the buying and selling of American real estate. pg. 33

The man in the suit handed me back the court order. "The county has petitioned the court in its behalf, Mrs. Lazaro. This should come as no surprise to you. I'm sure you had ample warning: your house is up for auction starting tomorrow morning." pg. 35

"Look, I inherited this house from my father, it's paid for. You can't evict me! My eyes filled up and the men began to blur. pg. 36

My new lawyer couldn't quite understand that, why I threw away all that mail from the county tax office without opening it....She poured herself a cup of coffee, then sat down a chair away from me with her legal pad and pencil. She asked me to tell her everything, which I did, including that I had already went to the tax office in Redwood City and signed a statement saying we'd never run a business from our house.... pg. 43

"Do you mind if I give you some professional advice?"
"I guess not."
"Keep your head and do it all through your lawyer, Kathy. If I were you, I wouldn't even drive up there until the keys were back in my hand." pg. 53


Gwendolyn B. said...

This is an extremely difficult novel to read. One of my sisters gave it to me and when I told her I was finding it almost too depressing to read, she said "It gets worse." Not that it's not good novel - but I certainly couldn't find any hope in it. I've read other "depressing" stories that at least had beautiful prose or characters I could relate to - something to make me want to go on. Not this one. I didn't finish it - just skipped ahead to the end. I couldn't recommend it either.

Wendy said...

I bought this one last fall at a book event and had Dubus sign it...since then I've heard VERY mixed reviews on it. Thanks for the review!! (and congrats on finishing the first book for the Random Reading Challenge - sorry it wasn't better for you!)

Lori L said...

It is well written, imho, but my review is purely based on my emotional reaction. This was not a good book choice for me.

Lisa said...

I'm glad I put this one back on the shelf the other day at my library's book sale. It's been on my tbr for, literally, years. But after reading DuBois' The Garden of Last Days, I just can't make myself pick up another of his books. He's a terrific writer, but so dark.