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House of Sand and Fog: A Novel Paperback – October 2, 2018
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The National Book Award finalist, Oprah’s Book Club pick, #1 New York Times bestseller and basis for the Oscar-nominated motion picture
A recent immigrant from the Middle East―a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force―yearns to restore his family’s dignity in California. A recovering alcoholic and addict down on her luck struggles to hold onto the one thing she has left?her home. And her lover, a married cop, is driven to extremes to win her love.
Andre Dubus III’s unforgettable characters―people with ordinary flaws, looking for a small piece of ground to stand on―careen toward inevitable conflict. Their tragedy paints a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.
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― Washington Post
"[A] fine and prophetic novel."
― Los Angeles Times
"It is rare these days to encounter a novel that follows the rules of Greek tragedy.… Dubus is a taker of risk.… A craftsman of character and dialogue, Dubus has dared to push his limits."
― San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (October 2, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0393356345
- ISBN-13 : 978-0393356342
- Lexile measure : 1170L
- Item Weight : 11.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #192,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #10,662 in Literary Fiction (Books)
- #11,488 in American Literature (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Full disclosure: I first saw the movie adaptation when it came out, and it was a movie that haunted me. I had been wanting to read the book for a while, and I finally took the chance this past month to do so.
In many respects, the book is superior to the movie. The characters are much more fleshed out, you learn a lot more of their histories, and each chapter (minus any chapter numbers) is told through the perspective of one of the characters so you're always inside someone's head.
In other respects, the movie is superior to the book. The fat from the book is trimmed down, from additional dialogue to scenes that slowed down the pacing in the book. The ending has also been tweaked but in my opinion it's a better one (and arguably more tragic because you sympathize with the characters more than you will in the book). I lastly have to point out the amazing performances of Jennifer Connolly and Ben Kingsley which bring the characters to life. They bring their all to the film, and it shows!
With all that said, there are some fantastic summaries and analyses of this book already posted here on Amazon so I won't add one of my own. But what I will point out about the story is how it illustrates even one bad decision (or lack of decision) can create a ripple effect of negative consequences. What makes the story so tragic is you're able to understand where both characters are coming from as they fight over the house. You definitely won't always agree with their decisions, perhaps they'll even anger you like they did for me, but you will always understand why they're making them.
Indeed, both characters have a right to the house. But if only either of them decided to better understand each other's situations...if only either of them decided to let go of his/her self-righteousness and pride for a moment...if only either of them decided to be more honest with their family members...if only either them decided to give up the fight and see this fight was not worth it...could tragedy have been avoided.
And while some might argue the ending is too depressing, that's kind of the point. Like the great ancient stories of tragedy, it's the main character's inability to see their own flaws which bring about their downfall.
Kathy Nicolo Lazaro wakes up one lonely morning to policemen pounding on her door. They have arrived with a man from San Mateo County to evict her from her home, for failure to pay a business tax she never owed. Kathy's husband Nick recently left her, and Kathy is friendless. A recovering addict, Kathy is confused by the eviction and doesn't know where to turn.
Sheriff Lester Burdon is wallowing in a personal crisis of ennui when he arrives on Kathy's doorstep to evict her. Moved by her beauty and her vulnerability, he helps her move her belongings to a storage unit and get her checked into a motel.
These three very separate lives collide when the Behrani's purchase Kathy's house at auction, for one-fourth its value. Behrani begins to see and end to his slave wages and a chance to buy-and-sell real estate as an opportunity to rebuild his former life. Nadi's depression lifts.
Kathy is determined to return to the house her father left her. Anguishing over her circumstances and encouraged by Lester's attention, she begins to smoke and drink again. Lester leaves his family, and jeopardizes his lifestyle and career to be with Kathy.
'House Of Sand And Fog' is a beautifully written novel of personal dysfunction. Colonel Behrani cannot control his anger, Kathy cannot control her addiction, and Lester cannot control his impulses.
Each character's dysfunction will destroy them in the end, along with the one thing they all have in common: Greed. Whether the greed is for money, intimacy, or dependency, it is all selfish in nature.
Dubus paints with perfect clarity an alarming moment, a missed opportunity, a mistake made when all three parties have the chance to redeem themselves but allow the moment to slide by because they are too proud, too frightened, or too weak to make things right again.
An intimately told tale, 'House' is written in first-person chapters alternating between Behrani and Kathy, interspersed with third-person intermissions from Lester's POV. You will get to know all of them, their strengths and weaknesses, their faults, their loves and their loathings, their characters and lack of character.
Although the novel drags in some places, it is definitely worth a read. I also recommend watching the movie, especially if you like the book. Enjoy!