House of Sand and Fog

April 14, 2011

The House of Sand and Fog engaged me from the opening lines when I encountered Massoud Amir Behrani, a colonel under the former Shah of Iran. Now an immigrant in the San Francisco Bay Area, he works back-breaking jobs while trying to maintain the illusion that he, his wife and two children fled Iran upon the Shah’s deposing with all their wealth intact. Upon marrying his daughter to  a son of a wealthy Iranian family, he then invests his whole life savings in an auctioned house. He also relocates his wife and teenage son to said house. Behrani’s plan is to upgrade the house and then sell it for a profit, which he can then reinvest in another property (his version of the American dream). Only to get caught up in the undertow of the bureaucracy that not so tightly stitches the dream.

The house that the colonel buys at a county auction was left to Kathy Nicolo by her father. Originally from a Massachusetts town, she and her husband drove out to San Francisco together. Soon after that, Kathy’s husband, Nick, left her. Lost in the emotion of dealing with that, she starts to neglect matters relating to the house; specifically, a letter sent to her by the County stating that because taxes haven’t not been paid, her house is being auctioned.

In other words, this is a very American novel. That is demonstrated clearly near the end of the novel when one character, Kathy Nicolo, is reflecting on everything that happened:

“…it was me letting Lester finish what we’d both started, letting all this happen so I could put off facing my mother and brother with the news that somehow Dad’s house had slipped through my fingers: I’d been willing for Lester to do anything so I could put off that moment of judgment.”

Even though this book has been made into a movie and is itself a few years old, I still don’t want to “spoil” it for someone like myself, who just happens across the book and decides to read it. For that reason, I won’t go into much more detail about the plot. I do, however, recommend you read this piece of americana literature yourself.

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