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House of Sand and Fog (Oprah's Book Club) (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – November 16, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Trade edition (November 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375727345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375727344
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (837 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, November 2000: Andre Dubus III wastes no time in capturing the dark side of the immigrant experience in America at the end of the 20th century. House of Sand and Fog opens with a highway crew composed of several nationalities picking up litter on a hot California summer day. Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military under the Shah, reflects on his job-search efforts since arriving in the U.S. four years before: "I have spent hundreds of dollars copying my credentials; I have worn my French suits and my Italian shoes to hand-deliver my qualifications; I have waited and then called back after the correct waiting time; but there is nothing." The father of two, Behrani has spent most of the money he brought with him from Iran on an apartment and furnishings that are too expensive, desperately trying to keep up appearances in order to enhance his daughter's chances of making a good marriage. Now the daughter is married, and on impulse he sinks his remaining funds into a house he buys at auction, thus unwittingly putting himself and his family on a trajectory to disaster. The house, it seems, once belonged to Kathy Nicolo, a self-destructive alcoholic who wants it back. What starts out as a legal tussle soon escalates into a personal confrontation--with dire results.

Dubus tells his tragic tale from the viewpoints of the two main adversaries, Behrani and Kathy. To both of them, the house represents something more than just a place to live. For the colonel, it is a foot in the door of the American dream; for Kathy, a reminder of a kinder, gentler past. In prose that is simple yet evocative, House of Sand and Fog builds to its inevitable denouement, one that is painfully dark but unfailingly honest. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

Dubus's chronicle of the American Dream gone awry is distinguished by his sympathetic delineation of lower-middle class life. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
5 star
276
4 star
182
3 star
131
2 star
112
1 star
136
See all 837 customer reviews
The characters were well developed.
Nettie Scott
It never did get better and by the time I finished, I was mad that I had wasted so much time reading this book.
Amazon Customer
Although this book is well written, I found it to be unbelievable and I didn't like ANY of the characters.
"denicie"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

130 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Karen Hertzberg on December 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have to admit, I was temped to pass up HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG because the subject matter didn't intrigue me. The story of an Iranian immigrant and a troubled woman competing for the same California bungalow just didn't sound like the sort of tale that would keep me up late turning pages. It's a good thing I've read some of brilliant short fiction crafted by this book's author, Andre Dubus III. Otherwise, I might have left this book on the shelf, and that would've been a shame.
Despite a storyline that sounds less-than-inspiring, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG captured my attention within the first few pages. The book begins in the stunningly realistic first-person voice of Massoud Behrani, once a Colonel in the Shah's army, now hunkered down in the United States because he and his family are marked for death in their mother country of Iran. Unable to find a job, Behrani is reduced to working for the county, picking garbage from the side of a California highway. Desperate to make a respectable life for his family, Behrani spends his family's dwindling savings to purchase a small house at auction, hoping to resell it at a large profit.
Enter Kathy Nicolo, a former drug addict, now barely keeping her head above water after her husband left her. The bungalow she inherited from her father is swept out from under her because of a delinquent tax bill she doesn't actually owe. Deputy Sheriff Lester Burdon takes a personal interest in Kathy's case, and becomes enmeshed in her struggle to win back her home. Despite a wife and two small children, he finds himself in love with Kathy. Dubus skillfully weaves the story of Kathy and Lester--a doomed, hopelessly codependent dance--against the backdrop of their fight for justice and the return of Kathy's house.
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111 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on November 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There's an old saying : even a blind pig finds an acorn once in awhile. Based on what I've seen on the rest of the list, this is Oprah's acorn.
Before coming to America, Genob Sarhang Massoud Amir Behrani was a colonel in the Iranian Air Force. Forced to flee when the Shah fell, he escaped with his wife and two children and a couple hundred thousand dollars. Now resettled in the San Francisco area, but thus far unable to find work in the aerospace industry, Behrani works two full time jobs, on a road crew and as a convenience store clerk. This labor is necessary because the family's money is dwindling quickly, thanks to his wife's insistence on maintaining their old standard of living and the need to put on a sufficiently opulent facade to get his daughter safely married off--for instance, their apartment costs $3000 per month. Then one day, noticing an announcement of a tax auction in the newspaper, he decides to use their remaining savings to buy the house and then try to turn it around quickly for a profit.
Meanwhile, the house had previously belonged to Kathy Niccolo, a recovering alcoholic whose addict husband has run out on her. She works as an independent house cleaner, barely making ends meet and ignored the county tax bill because it should not have been assessed against her house. But now she has been evicted and, though Legal Aid lawyers help her to win a judgment from the county, they can not make Behrani give up the house, only compensate her. She also receives help from Sheriff Lester Burdon, whose marriage has lost it's passion, and the two become lovers. Together, and separately, they begin to take steps to force the Behranis out of their new home. Things get ugly.
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95 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Jim Tenuto VINE VOICE on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Andre Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog gave me another hint of mortality, not solely because of the tragic tale. I now find that one of my favorite writers is the son of one of my favorite writers. (Amis and Amis, Buckley and Buckley also come to mind.) This book is a nuanced tale with five very strong main characters in the best traditions of the old tragedies. An Iranian colonel who has fled with his family to America following the fall of the Pahlavi government, finally seizes an opportunity to put that family back on a financially comfortable plain. He buys, at a tax auction, a very modest bungalow in a San Francisco suburb. He is pleasantly suprised when he learns that house could be sold for as much as four times what he paid for it, and unpleasantly surprised when it appears the county erred in seizing and auctioning the property. Although he is on firm legal ground, the moral ground is a swamp, populated by two reptilian characters, Kathy, a recovering drug abuser cum housecleaner, and Lester, a philandering deputy sheriff. The themes of self interest, denial, greed, moral certitude, moral ambiguity and xenophobia run like golden threads through this novel. Dubus III is an original voice and this novel is a breakthrough. The story is complex and rich. You only get a glimpse of his ability in his collection of short stories, The Cagekeeper. Buy this book. By far, the best I've read in a while.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Martin on November 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This was the first book I ever read by this author and it came highly recommended by so many people. For the first 25 pages, I wasn't at all sure that it was going to be for me but, as I kept reading, I became enmeshed in one of the best books I've read this year. It is totally unlike anything I have ever read before. Told in the first person through the eyes of the two main characters, it makes it so easy to truly understand not only their thoughts but their real motivations. I often wonder what makes some characters tick -- in this book you won't have to wonder as Dubus masterfully explains in great detail what's behind each of these character's inner thoughts and motions.
This is an incredible story revolving around a house and the house's rightful owner. Colonel Behrani was at the top of the Iranian army when the government was overthrown and his family was forced to leave Iran and seek refuge in America. You read, with tears in your eyes, as this once powerful man tries to achieve the American dream for his family. He takes on menial jobs in an effort to save enough money for a house.
Kathy Nicolo, a recovering alcoholic and addict, has a house. She also finds the act of opening mail from the County Tax Collector to be mundane. Because of her negligence in not opening her mail, her house is sold at public auction. Now the fight for the rightful owner of this property begins. A third person enters the scenario. His name is Lester and he is a married cop. You know the saying, "two's company, three's a crowd". Well, it couldn't be more true than in this book.
The circumstances of this house's ownership spiral out of control. At times I couldn't believe what I was reading. Your sympathies may run the gamut from one character to the next but one thing is for sure -- you will definitely walk away from this reading experience and NEVER, NEVER forget this book. It is truly a masterpiece.
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