House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
Several years ago (like 12 or 13 now, but I’m not counting), House of Sand and Fog received a ton of Oscar nominations, including actor nods for Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo. I, being the read-the-book-first type, picked this up in a garage sale with the intent of reading in order to watch the movie. I’ve only just now gotten around to it, and I have to say, I think the moment has passed on this book.
There is a modest bungalow on the California coastline that has little in the way of wealth and riches. Yet there is a property value, as well as a view, that make it the linchpin for conflict between Kathy Nicolo and Colonel Behrani, the protagonists and main voices. Colonel Behrani has fled Iran with his family and has dodged his own suspicious past. Tired of working undignified trash pick-ups and other odd jobs, the Colonel wants a chance to give his family the American life they thought would wait for them. He buys an auctioned house in order to flip it. Kathy is a recovering addict who has decided to get a divorce. She owns the house, though she has been evicted for not paying property taxes to the county. The evicting police officer is Sheriff Lestor Burdon, a bored and chivalrious married man, and that’s where the story takes off.
The premise itself is interesting, and the house as representative of the American Dream, as well as the warring voices of Kathy and the Colonel, would make this an interesting study for a college class. HOWEVER. The execution is painfully botched. The last half of the book veers into hilarious melodrama that then turns into serious Game of Thrones-level WTFery. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say that Lestor is Theon Greyjoy who thinks he’s Joffrey Baratheon/Lannister. It’s painful and stupid and incredibly bad. This book would be a one-star experience, except the premise is really interesting, AND the Iranian-immigrant experience is definitely worth reading. I just can’t believe this was nominated for a National Book Award. It goes without saying that I am giving this book to Goodwill.