Book Review by Roy E. Perry: “House of Sand and Fog” by Andre Dubus III


Editor’s Note: Roy E. Perry, the self-described “amateur philosopher of Nolensville,” wrote book reviews for “The Tennessean” and “Nashville Banner” for thirty years. He is a regular contributor to “Underground Nashville.”


Andre Dubus III’s novel House of Sand and Fog (1999) was a New York Times bestseller, a finalist for The National Book Award, and the basis for an Oscar-nominated motion picture.

The Boston Globe described the novel as “a page-turner with a beating heart.” The Washington Post Book World called it “Elegant and powerful . . . An unusual and volatile literary thriller.” And James Lee Burke (no mean novelist himself) wrote that it is “stunning….No one who reads this novel will ever forget it. I have never felt so strongly about the talent of a young writer in my life. House of Sand and Fog is one of the best American novels I’ve ever read.”

The bone of contention in this tale is a small hillside bungalow at 34 Bisgrove Street in the low-rent beach-town of Corona, California, south of San Francisco. A bureaucratic screw-up at the San MateoCounty tax office confuses the owner’s house for a house at 34 Biscove Street, whose owners were delinquent paying their taxes. This clerical incompetence leads to the owner’s being evicted from her house, which was sold at auction.

In the past, Kathy Nicolo Lazaro had been a cocaine addict who snorted “white snakes” and she still struggles (unsuccessfully) with alcoholism. Her husband has left her, and now she has lost the house that she inherited from her deceased father. With her life spiraling out of control, Kathy desperately struggles to hold on to the one thing she has left.

Genob Sarhang Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian Imperial Air Force, is now the legal owner of the house, which he has purchased at auction at one-third its value, planning to resell at a huge profit. Formerly he had been a man of wealth and power in Tehran, with the ear of the Shah himself. But when the 1979 revolution swept Iran, Behrani, his wife Nadereh, their daughter Soraya, and their son Esmail, are put on a death list and forced to flee the country.

The plot thickens when Deputy Sheriff Lester Victor Burdon, a married cop, falls head over heels in love with Kathy Nicolo, and several steamy encounters occur. Burdon, crossing far over the line, is determined, by hook or crook, to help Kathy recover her house. Their erotic liaison leads to a horrific climax reminiscent of Greek and Shakespearean tragedies.

If sad stories make you cry, avoid reading House of Sand and Fog. But if you’re looking for a powerful, well-written tale, this one is for you.

For other book reviews by Roy E. Perry, please visit:

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at and Dave is also a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer.

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit:

Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit (link below) and consider making a financial contribution. Any amount is very helpful and appreciated. Thank you.


Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew




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