Sep 21, 2014

House of Sand and Fog

by Andre Dubus III

Three people, an Iranian ex-colonel, a recovering addict and a police officer, come into violent conflict over a house. I did not really know what this book was about before I opened it; the premise at first startled, then intrigued me. It goes like this: Kathy is living in the house her father left her, when she erroneously gets evicted for tax evasion. Her house is put up for sale and the Iranian man, struggling to keep up the high standard of living his family once enjoyed, snatches the chance to buy it at a low auctioned price. He has a plan to resell the property to keep his family afloat, perhaps even restore their prestige. One of the cops who comes to the house to evict Kathy finds himself drawn to her, and gets heavily involved, taking it upon himself to seek justice for Kathy when normal processes stall, to basically get her house back for her. She herself goes ballistic on the Iranian family, practically stalking them, harassing them, the officer threatening them, the Iranian colonel refusing the back down, recognizing his rights- it's all a big mess. For a long while I kept thinking: this is the turning point, here they will work things out. No, here. Ah, here. But then it goes bad, and you see there is no way out. And (surprise!) a number of people end up dead. Several who were innocent and of all the characters in the story actually behaved decently to their fellow human beings. This irked me.

But I liked the way it was written. It's told from three viewpoints, the frank casual style of Kathy's voice contrasted against the stilted language and formalities of the colonel's. You really get to see why each of these people think they are doing the right thing, why they are all so indignant towards each other. I did not understand all their motives, but I saw where they were coming from. The dreams really stuck with me. The ironic sadness of the policeman ending up acting just like the men he despised- pushing his weight around to get what he wanted, what he saw was right. And the good people who meant no harm and were kind they suffered too. Now I really need a cheerful read.

Oh, and it was pleasant in a way to read a book set in a familiar location. I once lived in San Francisco, so the descriptions of foggy roads, gray beaches, flocks of tourists dressed for the wrong season, was kind of nostalgic.

Rating: 3/5        365 pages, 1999


bermudaonion said...

I thought this was an old book but I see it's actually current. This sounds good to me.

Trish said...

I read this one YEARS ago and remember really liking it--though it was very dark. And definitely not cheerful. Hope you can find something a bit more uplifting to follow!

Literary Feline said...

A friend was visiting with her daughter this weekend and pulled this book off my shelf, telling me it was one of her favorites. I haven't yet had a chance to read it, but your review has renewed my interest in it as well as her comment.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

As much as I love multiple viewpoints, I haven't been able to make myself read this. It just sounds SO GRIM.

Jeane said...

It is- very grim. Not cheerful at all. I'm glad I read it, but not sure if I will ever want to repeat the experience!