Sunday, November 3, 2013

House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III was published in 1999 and was a Finalist for the National
Book Award for Fiction in the same year.  It was also an Oprah's Book Club pick.  Those alone are interesting enough for me to be surprised that I had never picked it up to read until last month, when it was the October read for one of my book groups.

Probably the most interesting thing to me about the book is how none of the characters were especially likable.  It was easy to feel sorry for them, but not enough to really are about them.

One of the three main characters was Colonel Behrani, who had been a wealthy officer in Iran until he and his family left there to come to the United States.  In the United States he struggled to make a living for his family and  the family found it difficult to cope with their new status as struggling emigrants.  Colonel Behrani worked hard and planned hard, determined to raise his family to the lifestyle they had been accustomed to in Iran.  When he came across a foreclosed home, he saw an opportunity to remodel the home and sell it for a profit, and possibly begin a new life.

The house had belonged to Kathy Nicolo, a divorcee who was struggling herself in many different ways (emotionally, financially, etc.).  One day, seemingly out of the blue, she was handed a court order stating that her house was going up for auction the next day, and she needed to move out immediately.  The court order stated that she and her husband had operated a business out of the home and they owed a business tax. It was a mistake, but she had not been able to correct it apparently.

 "I was picturing all the county tax mail I'd been throwing away unopened since last winter..."
Deputy Sheriff Lester Burdon was one of the police officers who had come with the court order.  Lester was a married man, who became interested in and then in love with Kathy.  He took it upon himself to help her in the battle to win her home back.

Meanwhile, Kathy had to move out, and Colonel Behrani and his family moved into the house.  The Behrani's began making improvements to the house.

And so the story begins...These three characters lead the story to a tragic ending for all.  It is a story about obsessions...Kathy's for her home, Lester for Kathy, and Colonel Behrani for a better life. 

Interestingly, reviews say it is a book "combining unadorned realism with profound empathy."  I don't see either realism or profound empathy.  I really didn't feel any empathy for any of them.  I felt sorry for them and the way their different obsessions destroyed not only their lives, but the lives of others.

Do I recommend the book?  Not really.  I just didn't related at all to any of the characters.  But perhaps another reader will.  It obviously was a popular book, so I may just be jaded!

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