Amy's Reviews > House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
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's review
Jan 03, 2009

really liked it
Read in February, 2004 , read count: 1

House of Sand and Fog tells the story of three characters from extremely different walks of life whose paths converge unexpectedly due to a struggle over a bungalow in the foggy hills of the California coast. Kathy Nicolo, a recovering drug addict, loses the house due to a bureaucratic error and Colonel Massoud Behrani, an Iranian refugee, compelled to fight for a dignified life in America for his family, purchases it in an auction held by the county. Lester Burdon, a Duputy Sheriff who meets Kathy as a result of all this, finds himself in love with Kathy and bent on helping her reclaim her home. As the characters become more and more blinded by their own needs and ambitions, their paths head in a dangerous direction, and their inability to understand each other and each other's plights only throws them perilously toward reckless and impulsive behavior.
Admittedly, this novel is slow in the beginning and a bit hard to get into, but as the characters connect, the novel picks up speed and draws the reader in. The author's language is poetic and captivating and he maintains an incredible level of detail in his descriptions, so that all senses are accounted for.

The story is told in three different POVs (first person: Kathy, first person: Behrani, and third person Lester) and Dubus switches perspective in each chapter. At first, this was a bit confusing to me, as it took me a minute to acclimate to the new voice, but after thirty pages or so, it flows naturally. The characters are all careful observers of their surroundings, and Dubus' unique POV shifts emphasize how different these people are from each other as we note the contrasting views on the same observations. I appreciated the opportunity to get into the head of all three characters because it helps explain the motivations behind the actions that would otherwise be tough to justify or understand. The voices of each character are believable and the shifts intensify the suspense of the novel.

For the most part, I found this to be a unique and compelling novel, but it does grow extremely dark in some parts, which at times feels as though it's too much to take. It is good to be aware that going into this book you are not entering a clean and easy read. There was also a nagging question in my head throughout the novel - there seemed to be ways all the characters could have avoided the collision their lives take, but it wasn't enough to take away from the enjoyment the book brought me.

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