Modern American Tragedy: House of Sand and Fog

Good day, everyone!

Anybody out there remember Woody Woodpecker? No, I wasn’t a fan, but my brothers watched it on occasion. I only remember one episode. Woody found a (planted) buried treasure map and took off on a destined-to-fail journey to find it. (No! You don’t say!) He spent all his time (and money) trying to resolve the conflict but only got in deeper every minute.

Meanwhile, a Captain Haddock kept following the action. All he said over and over was,

“If Woody had gone right to the police, this would never have happened.”

That’s the line that kept jumping into my head the deeper I got into Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog.

  http://andredubus.com

Disclaimer: I happened upon this book at my school’s teacher’s lunchroom. In no way was this review solicited nor was I paid to share my thoughts on it. I do so because I felt deeply impacted by this story. 

This conflict-driven thriller grabbed me early on through its first person points of view of the lead characters. Colonel Behrani is an immigrant who has one goal: re-establish the lifestyle his family was accustomed to before their flight from Iran when the Shah’s regime was overtaken. We meet him as a ‘garbage soldier’ (i.e., part of the California highway clean-up committee) and convenience store worker, holding both jobs simultaneously to maintain the façade his wife insists upon, at least until their daughter has married someone from an Iranian family with a lifestyle. The colonel also knows his fourteen year-old son is eventually to attend university and will need funds to see him through. (Neither child knows the colonel’s circumstances. He hides them well.)

The colonel though, is seriously burnt. The American dream appears to have eluded his family and he decides real estate is his escape from the drudgery he lives daily. When he comes upon across a newspaper ad announcing a tiny bungalow being auctioned by the county, he jumps on it. He spends $45K of the $48K left of his savings and purchases the home.

Kathy Nicolo, a recovering addict who makes a job-to-job living cleaning homes, is ousted from the one she inherited from her father. Eight months prior, her husband left her, giving her no reason why. Driven by her need to prove to her family (who lives on the east coast) she is not the failure she believes they think she is, Kathy keeps her falling-apart-life to herself.

Lester Burdon is the married deputy sheriff who is present when Kathy is forced to leave her home. Drawn to her for reasons he can’t explain, he begins offering his help and soon finds himself in love. (Not sure how much his judgment was impaired before he met up with her.)

In a nutshell, this story is a collection of characters’ choices that culminate in calamity. I wanted to choke every single one. Each one’s backstory, however, lent me no option but to have compassion and some understanding of what drove their actions. This is a rough story to watch play out, but one you’ll never forget either. Oh, and Mr. DuBos leaves no loose story ends; he ties up every one.

For those who’d rather watch the movie version (which I have not): here’s a link to the trailer. Chances are, you can find it On Demand via your cable service or on Netflix. (Loved the casting of Ben Kingly as the colonel. Nothing against Jennifer Connelly and Ron Eldard, but I’m not sure I agree with them as Kathy and Lester—thought they were a bit young. Ron Eldard, though has a great look for personifying Lester’s underlying insecurity.)

Finally, for the Woody Woodpecker fans, watch Bunco Busters. I loved it today as much as I did then. Hate to say it, but in its own strange way the episode is a great illustration of House’s conflict (minus the installment’s happy ending).

Here’s to a wonderful day to all! If you enjoyed the content, please take a second to click a SHARE button below! Thank you!

Joanna

 

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