House Of Sand And Fog Book Analysis Essay

In an enthralling tragedy built on a foundation of small misfortunes, Dubus (Bluesman, 1993, etc.) offers in detail the unraveling life of a woman who, in her undoing, brings devastation to the families of those in her path.

It was bad enough when Kathy Lazaro stepped out of the shower one morning to find herself evicted from her house, a small bungalow to be auctioned the very next day in a county tax sale; bad enough that her recovering-addict husband had left her some time before, and that she had no friends at all in California to help her move or put her up. Then she also had to fall for the guy who evicted her, Deputy Les Burdon—married, with two kids. Sympathetic to her plight, Les lines up legal counsel and makes sure she has a place to stay, but his optimism (and the lawyer’s) hits an immovable object in proud ex-Colonel Behrani, formerly of the Iranian Air Force, who fled his homeland with his family when the Shah was deposed and who has struggled secretly in San Francisco for years to maintain appearances until his daughter can make a good marriage. He’s sunken his remaining life savings into buying Kathy’s house, at a tremendous bargain, planning to reinvent himself as a real-estate speculator, and he has no wish to sell it back when informed that the county made a bureaucratic error. Hounded by both Kathy and Les—who has moved out, guiltily, on his family and brought his lover, herself a recovering addict, back to the bar scene—Behrani is increasingly unable to shield his wife and teenaged son from the ugly truth, but he still won’t yield. Then Kathy tries to kill herself, and Les takes the law into his own hands.

No villains here, but only precisely rendered proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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House of Sand and Fog

Andre Dubus, III, Author W. W. Norton & Company $24.95 (365p) ISBN 978-0-393-04697-7
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. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/15/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
Prebound-Other - 365 pages - 978-0-613-36408-9
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-20293-0
Hardcover - 613 pages - 978-0-7862-3235-2
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-375-70841-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-073561-6

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