Sunday, March 4, 2012

House of Sand and Fog

Title:  House of Sand and Fog
Author:  Andre Dubus III
Publication Information:  W. W. Norton and Company, Inc. 1999. 365 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book as this month's selection for my local book club.

Favorite Quote:  "Maybe I didn't deserve the deputy's judgement of me for things I never did, but now I felt even more that I didn't deserve the warmth the nurse showed me, holding my hand like I was a victim in all this. Because I knew that wasn't true. Neither picture of me was true."

House of Sand and Fog is indeed the story of a house and the two sets of people who both feel that it is rightfully theirs. The Behranis are a family displaced from their homeland of Iran due to revolution. To them, this house is a last chance to restore some dignity to their lives. Kathy Lazaro is a recovering alcoholic and addict. To her, this house is her last refuge. The house is confiscated from Kathy Lazaro for tax purposes. The Behranis purchase it at auction. The rest of the book is the story of struggle between the two, leading to a dramatic and sad conclusion.

House of Sand and Fog is one of the most depressing books I have read in a long time. All 365 pages of it. There is the longing of the Behrani family for a life long gone and a homeland no longer open to them. It is their struggle to understand a new place and to create a new life for themselves. It is their sad attempt to maintain appearances of their past successes and position in life.

Then, there is Kathy Lazaro. She struggles with her recovery from alcoholism and addiction. She has left her home and family to build a new life with her husband in California. Her husband deserts her. So, she too struggles with finding a new place and creating a new life. She too attempts to maintain the appearances of her happy, married life to her family back home.

Thrown into this mix is Lester Burton. He is a police officer who gets involved with Kathy Lazaro. He proceeds down a path that leads them all to a catastrophic result.

The characters in this book are realistic. The emotions they feel and the situations they find themselves in also ring true. Unfortunately, the overwhelming sadness of this book makes it very difficult to read. In addition, the writing style is one based on long paragraphs and long descriptions. That too makes the book difficult to read. I found myself reading steadily for a while, then skimming through a portion of the book, and then reading the ending. Even so, I was left with an overwhelming depressing feeling and a need to step away from the story.

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