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House of Sand and Fog

by Andre Dubus

Library Journal: In his second novel (after Bluesman, LJ 5/15/93), the son of noted writer Andre Dubus manages to get deep inside the heads of two very different characters who clash over a modest house in the San Francisco suburbs. Kathy is a recovering alcoholic and cokehead who loses her inherited bungalow for alleged nonpayment of taxes. Behmini, an Iranian who was an officer in the Shah's air force before fleeing the revolution, is now struggling to succeed in the United States. He buys the house at auction, planning to make a profit on the resale. Kathy skulks around the neighborhood and eventually confronts the family. When she becomes sexually involved with the policeman she met at her eviction, a married man with bad judgment and a drinking problem of his own, he takes up her cause with explosive results. Dubus's attention to detail and realistic prose style give the narrative a hard-edged, cinematic quality, but unlike many movies, its outcome is unexpected. Recommended for all fiction collections.

Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Publishers Weekly: This powerfully written but bleak narrative is a mesmerizing tale of the American Dream gone terribly awry. Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force under the Shah, now lives in exile with his wife and teenage son near San Francisco. Working on a road crew as a "garbage soldier" by day and as a deli clerk by night, Behrani is obsessed with restoring his family to the position of glittering wealth and prestige it once enjoyed. At a county auction, he sinks his savings into a bungalow seized for non-payment of taxes, and quickly moves his family into it, planning to resell the house at a sizable profit. But when the house's previous occupant, recovering coke addict Kathy Lazaro, resurfaces with valid claims for repossession, Behrani's plan begins to unravel, and with it his tightly controlled facade of composure. Tensions between Lazaro and Behrani quickly escalate into violence, as Lazaro's lover, a married police officer with a weak spot for lost causes, decides to take matters into his own hands. The book's horrifying denouement offers readers a searing study in the wages of pride. Dubus (Bluesman) writes with an authority regarding the American lower middle class that is reminiscent of Russell Banks and Richard Ford, and his limber imagination is capable of drawing the inner lives of three very different main characters with such compassion that readers will find their sympathies hopelessly divided. If the tragedy that he so skillfully orchestrates cries out to be leavened with a little less desperation and some quiet glimpse of hope, the keenly perceptive and moving narrative is proof that the son and namesake of one of our most talented writers has embarked on a dazzling career in his own right.

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms