Editor’s note: This is a single book report for Mr. Key’s class.
Student: Lauren S.
Book: House of Sand and Fog
Author: Andre Dubus III
Genre: Realistic Fiction
After retreating to America to start a new life, Iranian political refugee, Colonel Behrani
and his family settle in a home discovered to be a treasured gift passed down to recovering
drug addict, Kathy Nicolo. Finding love in Kathy, married man Sheriff Lester Burdon becomes
increasingly determined to save Kathy’s beloved house. How far this property battle goes hinges
on a bureaucratic mistake and results in tragic repercussions.
The most unique feature about this novel is that it radiates Persian culture and intertwines
it throughout the entire 365 pages of plot. Andre Dubus III integrates experiences during the
Iranian Revolution and the government’s oppression of and terrorism against it’s people under
the Shah’s control. He describes a society in which each individual has a well-defined status and
receives certain amounts of power. He describes a culture in which the height you raise your
glass shows which men you respect and honor the most, providing a historic flare to the story.
The Persian family Dubus depicted in the novel are very authentic and traditional. He
transcends stereotyping by bringing the people to life in the context of their culture. He takes
simple measures to have them speak the native tongue of Farsi making them seem more realistic
to the reader. When speaking English, the Iranian characters structure their sentences with a
Farsi influence, giving these characters an accent consistent with their foreign background. For
instance Dubus writes many dialogue phrases like, “she to me says” whereas most Americans
would say “she says to me.”
Dubus writes into the unknown with House of Sand and Fog, forming detailed stories of
expectations and lost hope. Kathy is a troubled character and seems to be staring into the
gloomy fog that awaits her. Drifting and wondering through life with a clouded vision of the
outcome. Searching for stability and clinging on to what she has, Kathy represents the lives of
all those people waiting to emerge from the fog and into the clearing, scared of what to expect.
Expectations are what Colonel Behrani lives for. He has great plans for what is yet to
come and will do anything to uphold his family’s dignity along the way. He preserves endless
thoughts of how to maintain stability. Miles of diminutive grains of sand, each with a new view
of what the future holds are kept locked in his mind. Behrani symbolizes those who have
mapped out the remainder of their lives, yet nothing seems to go as imagined, for life consists of
All these concepts are strung along the same major theme, that the future will always be a
mystery. Everybody has a climax to their story, twists in their plot and obstacles along the way.
These are all things humans need to understand about one another and accept so we can
overcome our differences.
“I feel strangely content, and I am put in mind of that afternoon with the Iraqi in his shop
near the Highway Department depot when we played backgammon near the window, our
silence a mutual acceptance to let the blood between our two countries flow under the
bridge away from us.” – Colonel Behrani Pg.218 House of Sand and Fog.
At first this quote seems like a simple game being played between two men. Two men
who have both been brought to their knees because of the cruelness of politics and control.
Two men from countries known for their escalating rivalry. Two men that no longer care
because they are happier being poor with one another then being rich and knowing that they are
destroying one another.
The two men are constantly in disguise, neither one able to leave the house wearing
anything less than a silk suit. Scared of what others will think if they look as poor as they are,
they need to prove to their superiors that they are wealthy and powerful. They mask themselves
in luxury, ashamed of what they have become. Among one another they can reveal who they are
because they know that they have already been exposed.
House of Sand and Fog is credited as an A-list book and is an extraordinary masterpiece
that is genuinely inspiring. This book definitely deserves the A-list title, because it echoes the
stories of truth, the stories of sadness that people want to ignore. It is a story with a heart, one
that beats with despair but also with hope. Chambers of words that make veins flow with
emotion. House of Sand and Fog opens people’s eyes to the evil world that haunts everyone, a
world of struggles, corruption, desperation and most of all hope.