"House of Sand and Fog" is the story of people whose dreams, though fairly ordinary and mostly achievable, turn out to be built of highly illusive materials, such as sand (upon which you cannot build a house) and fog (through which you cannot see the truth).
Author Dubus tells the story from the perspective of three characters: Kathy Nicolo, who owns and loses a modest, 3-bedroom bungalow in northern California and who is a recovering coke addict and alcoholic; a former colonel from the Shah's Iranian military and now a legal citizen of America who acquires Kathy's house through a county auction; and an intelligent though troubled and dissatisfied American policemen who starts a relationship with Kathy after serving the official eviction notice
This is a book as much about the effects of bureaucratic mistakes and their attendant nightmares, as it is about people and their almost fated inabilities to break free of bad habits and destructive behaviours. At the same time, it's about life in a free country, dreams of betterment, and shaking free of the past.
Big themes. Well handled.
The different perspectives show the American dream and our unalienable rights --- shelter, prosperity, the pursuit of happiness or, failing that, at least a decent enough relationship. The reader is never really certain which character deserves the most empathy; they each have their fatal flaws and also their very real charms.
As the story builds to its tragic conclusion, you will find yourself completely gripped and increasingly worried. This is a page-turner. And it's very, very good. While the book could have done with some good editing towards the end --- maybe ten or 15 fewer pages, especially regarding Les Burdon, the policeman --- it is well worth reading and really memorable.