Tessa Bright Wildsmith
“House of Sand and Fog” was one of those books that moved me to my core.
Kathy Nicolo is down on her luck. She’s estranged from her husband, alone and broke. Massoud Amir Behrani isn’t having the best of times either. He’s an Iranian immigrant trying to create a new life in America without much luck.
We meet Behrani first as he tells us of how unexpectedly hard life has been since immigrating to the United States. Once a colonel in the Iranian military under the Shah, Behrani fled his native country to save his life and the life of his family when they were marked for death. Unable to find a job, Behrani is reduced to working for the county, picking up garbage from the side of a hot California highway. Desperate to make a respectable life for his family, Behrani spends his family’s dwindling savings to purchase a bungalow being auctioned for delinquent taxes at auction, hoping to resell it at a large profit.
Kathy Nicolo, a former drug addict, is barely keeping her head above water since her husband left. The bungalow she inherited from her father is swept out from under her because of a delinquent tax bill she doesn’t actually owe. With no way to get her home back, Nicolo spirals out of control until she hits rock bottom.
The bungalow by the sea represents more than just a place to live for both Kathy and Behrani. For the colonel, it is a hopeful foot toward the American dream; for Kathy, the house is a reminder of a kinder, happier life she once had.
The plot continues to build, and the tension simmers, until the story finally explodes in a dark and painful ending.
In the beginning, there were times the story felt long, and I got a little bogged down. I stuck with it though, and was rewarded as the time Dubus took with the characters made each one truly come to life with an individual voice and distinct point of view. He made sure we understood each character’s side of the story and what motivated their actions.
If you’re looking for a happy read, this isn’t the one for you. It’s an intense story about characters full of desperation, hopelessness and anger. It definitely doesn’t lift your mood or leave you feeling happy.
I loved it, though, for the painful, honest heartbreak I felt as I read.
“House of Sand and Fog” is a powerful story about the lengths people will go to when they reach rock-bottom and have nothing left to hold on to. It’s dark and true, and that’s the kind of book always worth reading.
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