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House of Sand and Fog

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Its worth cracking open this house struggle.

In a nutshell, House of Sand and Fog is a struggle over a house. While this doesn¿t may not sound like a very compelling tale, hidden within these pages is a struggle well worth putting some time into cracking open. In this novel, Andre Dubus III presents the stark diff...
In a nutshell, House of Sand and Fog is a struggle over a house. While this doesn¿t may not sound like a very compelling tale, hidden within these pages is a struggle well worth putting some time into cracking open. In this novel, Andre Dubus III presents the stark differences between two nationalities and two lifestyles. Through the struggle over ownership of a house, Colonel Behrani, Kathy Nicolo, and Lester Burton experience their own personal struggles with the American dream, redemption, and what one wants versus what is right.
Kathy Nicolo is a recovering drug addict who was recently left by her husband and thinks that her family considers her a failure. Her life is falling apart and she is possibly suicidal. Through a mistake by the government, her house is wrongfully taken from her and sold in an auction to Colonel Behrani. Behrani was rich and well respected in his homeland of Iran. However, when revolution broke out, he and his family were forced to flee to America where he is unable to find work. He lost his money and his status as a result and sees Kathy¿s house as an opportunity to regain this. Lester Burton fits into the story on Kathy¿s side. A married police officer who was present when Kathy was forced from her home, Lester sympathizes with Kathy and finds himself pulled into the conflict as he falls in love with her.
The book is presented so that each side can argue its points. Each chapter flips from Kathy¿s point of view and Behrani¿s. In this way, there is no clear hero or villain in the story. You actually over time can choose which character is in the wrong and will find yourself rooting for either Kathy or Behrani to get the house. The problem here is that none of the characters are very likeable. Kathy¿s a miserable slob who let her life slip from her fingers because of her apparent lack of good choices. Lester isn¿t half-bad, but would go against everything he vowed not to do and walk out on his wife and kids just like his father. Behrani is an egotistical and power-hungry old man who would risk everything just to get his status back while claiming its all for his family.
Yet that¿s life. People are not perfect and Dubus has created characters with many flaws who hardly even try to do the right thing and likeable or not, this makes them all the more real. House of Sand and Fog is the story of ordinary battles fought by ordinary people. This is its brilliance, because it is easy to relate to these characters. Dubus puts you in the character¿s mind and allows you to sift through the character¿s perspective on the world. The intimate connection Dubus creates between the reader and his characters makes it almost impossible not to sympathize with them.
The book starts slow and about as interesting as a quarrel over a house sounds. Soon after, though, the character¿s struggles grab you. Even as the plot appeared unmoving, I found that I didn¿t want to put the book down. The characters personal struggles made me keep coming back to find out what would happen to them. And the book only gets better as it goes along. I wasn¿t ready for the twist near the end, and once I got there, Kathy, Behrani, and Lester consumed my every thought. House of Sand and Fog is a book that everyone can enjoy. I highly recommend it.

posted by Peanut-Butter on December 15, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Major Let Down...

I bought this book seeing that it was an Oprah's Book Club novel and hearing praise for it's 'magnificent plot.' Sadly, I was terribly dissapointed. The story really captivated me for about the first two thirds of the novel, but after that point the plot was rushed, the...
I bought this book seeing that it was an Oprah's Book Club novel and hearing praise for it's 'magnificent plot.' Sadly, I was terribly dissapointed. The story really captivated me for about the first two thirds of the novel, but after that point the plot was rushed, the main characters acted almost unrealistically rash, and the book ended in the most confusing/frustrating manner. I don't recommend you read this if you are a pessimistic person!

posted by Anonymous on May 13, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2013

    Good

    This book was very well written, and each character was able to provoke a response (although I did want to strangle one of the characters). This book really illustrates the struggle people have in trying to achieve the American Dream, and the way that love influences our decisions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2014

    Sentye

    Silenteye came back, smelling faintky of Horseclan. (He's been there, trying to save cats. He was at the Sandclan border when he smelled cats.)

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  • Posted January 11, 2012

    Disappointing, shallow characters

    House of Sand and Fog tells the tragic story of a woman who was wrongly evicted from her home, then fights with the new owner to reclaim the house. Kathy Nicolo-Lazaro is a recovering drug addict, whose husband recently walked out on her. One morning she wakes up to find the police on her doorstep, evicting her from her home by county order. The home is sold at auction the following day. An Iranian exile, Colonel Behrani, uses the last of his savings to buy the house, hoping to secure a better life for his family. As the Behrani family settles in, Kathy is befriended by Lester Burdon, the deputy who evicted her, and a fiery love affair begin between them. Lester is soon drawn in to Kathy's legal plight and they both take drastic measures to get Kathy's house back.

    One short review I read said this book really tugs on your emotions and sympathies. And in some ways it did for me, but I only had sympathy for the Behrani family. I was a bit stunned to realize this as I read, because Kathy is the one who is homeless and fighting to get her house back. But the further I read, the more I could not relate to this woman and could not agree with the choices she, and in turn Lester, made. To make it cut and dry, Col. Behrani owned the home legally once the county sold it to him. He was fully protected by state law. Kathy's only legal recourse was to sue the county for the full value of the home and get her money back.

    Kathy is very, very, very bad at handling her emotions. She can only deal with them by using beer, drugs, or sex. Otherwise, she's explosively volatile. Hence, every decision she makes about how to deal with this problem is fueled by unstable emotion. At one point she tries to justify herself and say "I just watched all this happen. It's not my fault." She is so used to playing the victim all her life, that she is incapable of making one reasonable, responsible decision. I hate people like that!

    Lester is also a vulnerable character. Once he and Kathy hook up, he suddenly decides to up and leave his wife and kids behind, and eventually, his sanity as well. They both act irrationally and irresponsibly throughout the book, and this bad mix ends up costing the Behranis pain and sadness, and ultimately their lives.

    (Speaking of hooking up - I have to warn you that this book has a lot of sex. A lot. Kathy and Lester are either having sex, thinking about sex, or dreaming about sex. And some of it really made me want to gag. They also use a lot of f-bombs and other crude language.)

    The second half of the book focuses a bit more on the ethics of the situation, and poses the question "What is truly, ethically, the right thing for Col. Behrani to do?" Legally, he is innocent of his actions to keep claim on the house, but ethically, should he give Kathy the house back? (This question is the basis behind a law in my own state that says if you buy a home from the county, city, etc., you do not own it free and clear for 6 months. This gives the previous owner time to pursue legal recourse, if in fact they have unlawfully been deprived of their home.) So I kept asking myself this question as I read, but I could not untangle my antipathy towards Kathy and Lester, so I couldn't find a good answer.

    Bottom line-this book is very thought provoking, and the writing style is superb. Thumbs up.
    The characters of Kathy and Lester are pathetic, unrelateable, and a bit offensive. BIG thumbs down.

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  • Posted December 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An enjoyable character study

    Genob Sarhang Massoud Amir Behrani is as proud and pompous as his name suggests, even though the former Colonel in the Shah's Iranian air force now works as a road cleaner in the USA, a fact which he hides from his family by using the little savings he has left to live with them in an expensive apartment. But as soon as he marries his daughter off to a well-to-do Iranian, he seizes the opportunity to drop the charade in order to invest what little money he has left in the booming property market. His wife Nadi, who he loves but gets no intimacy from since their decline, slips deeper into her depression as they move out of their expensive rented apartment into a small rundown house that Genob buys at auction in the hope of developing it and making a fortune. But all this Genob is doing for her and his teenaged son.

    Problem - the house belonged to Kath, a recovering addict who was mistakenly evicted by the authorities because they thought she owed taxes. And now she wants her house back. The problem seems small, one that reasonable people might be able to resolve, but Genob's pride and greed, and Kath's reluctance to accept some responsibility that her neglect may have helped to cause the problem puts them on a collision course to ultimate disaster.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2007

    Does not live up to the hype....

    It disappoints me that this book is being recommended by Oprah. I simply do not think it deserves the hype. The writing is good but not sensational the plot is unrealistic and the characters are not all that likeable. I do not mind flawed characters as long as they have a few redeeming qualities but in Lester and Kathy, I found nothing there to relate to at all. I don't even mind completely rotten characters as long as they're not presented in a way that the reader is expected to have some sort of empathy for them or identify with them to any degree. Basically the story centers on a self-obsessed, immature, 'recovering' drug addict, her married cop boyfriend and an Iranian colonial forced to leave his country after there was a change in political climate. The woman, named Kathy, is evicted from her home erroneously by the county. In the meantime, the colonial picks the house up at auction for apparently about a quarter of what it should have sold for, and he intends to turn around and sell the house for a quick profit, which will help to restore his family to the former wealth that they were accustomed to in Iran. Obviously a conflict ensues when Kathy learns that her house 'that her father left her and her brother when he died' has already been sold to the unsuspecting Colonel and his family. It is then that Kathy begins this campaign of harassment and bullying to get the Colonel and his family to move. Never once does she turn her attentions on the entity that is truly at fault, the county. She drives by the house constantly, honking her horn and yelling at the Behranis, and she even curses out carpenters who are making repairs to 'her' house. During this temper tantrum she steps on a board with nails sticking out of it, and even threatens to sue the colonel for the injuries to her foot even though it was caused by her childish, irresponsible behavior and she was on what was legally someone else's property with no sort of invitation whatsoever. When she realizes that the Colonel is not going to bow down to her bullying, she enlists the assistance of her poor excuse for a cop boyfriend to help continue the harassment of Colonel and his family. That is when the story really begins to take a turn for the worse. I guess what grates on me the most about this novel is how the main characters constantly blame other people for their bad behavior. Even the Colonel does this to an extent, though he does possess more personal accountability than Lester and Kathy. The book could have redeemed itself for me but instead it ends on an extremely dismal note. I will say that the positive points of this book are that it is fairly easy to read and it does provide some fascinating insights into Persian culture. Unfortunately the positive aspects of the novel are weighed down by the utter detestability of most of its main characters. If you want a book that is well balanced with excellent character development, check out The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2004

    We didn't exactly HATE it, but....

    Our book club discussion group read it too and we were awfully disappointed. Cross-cultural communications problems (that's what the story amounted to) has gotten awfully cliche. And the sex scenes were not only pornographic, they were dreary cliche. All in all this book was a yawner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2004

    Well Written...but

    This book is very well written, artfully so, but all in all it is extremely depressing.I read the book after it received so much acclaim for the academy awards and it was a good read, but I honestly felt like the characters could have found better ways to deal with their misfortune and anguish. If you would like to read something for the sake of well written literature, with detailed descriptions and raw emotion, then this is a novel you might want to read. If you are the least bit depressed, however, please don't read this. It does not provide hope to impossible situations. A book that deals with similar hoplessness, is a book I just read by Michele Geraldi called Lucky Monkeys In The Sky. It is a different story entirely, but the emotions related to the complete loss of hope are quit similar. The difference between the emotion of the two books, however, is that Lucky Monkeys In The Sky finds a positive way in which to deal with it and it finds the last glimmer of hope. Then it builds upon that. Sand and Fog doesn't seem to even have that glimmer, although, like I said, it is a well-written novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2003

    Depressing!!!

    A beautifully written book, and very difficult to put down, but it was an utterly depressing book! I realize all the characters made bad decisions and used poor judgment, but I just couldn't muster up any sympathy whatsoever for Kathy or Lester. They were completely irresponsible. The colonel I felt more sympathy for. He was trying to do the best by his family, and he bought the house in good faith. How was he supposed to know the circumstances of what happened to make the house available? And why should he care? It wasn't his fault that the house became available because of Kathy's irresponsible behavior. If Kathy would have just let her lawyer do her job, then this whole thing could have been resolved.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2003

    House of Sand and Fog

    Entertaining but the ending could have been much better. But all around a fairly good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2002

    PRIDE AND PASSION

    As I read the reviews that others have written, no one has spoken about the main issue in the book -- pride and how it can cause our downfall. From Colonel Behrani and his family to Lester -- pride has caused their downfall. Kathy, while very naive to think that the Behrani's should just give her house back, was the victim in this book. I appreciated the author's descriptive writing and his insight into the Iranian culture. Hopefully this book will make me more tolerant of others by taking the time to better understand their background.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2002

    Foggy Bay Depression

    This novel will keep you turning the pages for sure, but as the story unfolded I found myself becoming increasingly less sympathetic to the three main characters. All of them found themselves in very real and human situations, but the way each of them dealt with their respective troubles showed an increasing lack of common sense. The book left me feeling uneasy and a little depressed. I would have preferred just a little more hope.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2002

    Depressing story of Bay area conflicts

    This is a well-written and inexorably plotted book, but like most mainstream fiction it's terribly depressing and hopeless. For years I have read science fiction largely because it is a literature of hope and problem-solving rational thought. This novel, while deserving of the accolades it has been receiving for the quality of the writing and characterizations, and its non-judgemental tone towards its characters, is depressing as all get-out. For a moment it seems as if the two women will find a mutually compassionate ground, but that doesn't happen, because the colonel and the deputy are too determined to 'win.' I was down for 2 days after reading this. I had to watch a running of 'Encino Man' on cable to cheer myself up afterwards.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2002

    Not for the fast-paced crowd

    While I felt that I had done something good for myself (sort of analagous to eating vegetables or working out) by reading this book, it took me a while to get through it. I can't discern whether that is because it depressed me or made me acknowledge some of my own naivete about humanity. It presents a lot of wisdom in its moral, but as I said it drags you down in the meantime.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2001

    PAGE TURNER...

    MY REVIEW FOR HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG GOES AS FOLLOWS. IT WAS A LITTLE CONFUSING TO FOLLOW IN THE BEGGINING, BUT, IT WAS JUST A PHASE. THE WAY ANDRE DUBUS PORTRAYS THE CHARACTERS IS BRILLIANT. 1ST PERSON, TO ANOTHER 1ST PERSON, TO 3RD PERSON. ALL OF WHICH ARE ALTERNATING CHAPTER TO CHAPTER. YOU REALLY GET A GOOD FEEL OF WHAT ALL THE CHARECTERS ARE FEELING. AND TO FINISH IT OFF, WHAT ELSE WOULD THERE BE BUT A HEART BREAKING ENDING. I HIGHLY RECOMEND, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2001

    Corner Painting

    This was a quick summertime read. A real pageturner but also frustrating. I think Dubus got a good start with characters, interesting situations, but then painted himself into a corner and couldn't think how to end this mess. PS: a bit of research would have told Dubus that no one cuts down a live tree for firewood--it would never burn, only smoke---trust me on this one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2001

    Not the greatest

    Every chapter that was about the Behrani's, i loved, however I did not care for the woman or Lester Burdon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2001

    Talented Author

    The author did a great job describing the emotions of each character. The writing style is original and refreshing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2001

    Not too bad

    I didnt hate this book and I didnt really love it. It did bring a better understanding about middle eastern culture, though. I hated the ending- I really grew to hate the cop and the girl.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2001

    Haunting and Sad

    Dubus has a knack for getting into the minds of his diverse characters,the sights, sounds and smells surrounding them. The last 100 pages are a real roller coaster ride to a sad conclusion. It was a quick read, but I found it hard to feel much for any of the characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2001

    Takes awhile but it gets good.

    I read half of the book before I really began to get interested. However, once I was caught up in it I enjoyed it.

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