Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sand and Fog Review

I finished House of Sand and Fog last night.

It's a strange sensation, reading a book by an author I met and learned from. Reading the book confirmed what I learned from him and it showed me he's not just full of crap like some writing teachers (though I promise I never thought that of him while he was teaching; it's just good to see he probably practices what he teaches).

I expected to "feel" Andre Dubus III (or at least what I think he should "feel" like) in House of Sand and Fog, but I did no such thing. He has mastered the art of voice so well he is nowhere in its pages. The book is told only by the woman, the Palestinian man, and a third-person voice for the deputy sheriff--never by Dubus.

The most profound quality of the story is that the reader never knows, not even in the end, whose side to be on. Without being bored or hateful (but often frustrated), the reader remains torn between the woman who wrongfully lost her house and the man who rightfully bought it. At once there are feelings of sympathy for the woman who makes horrible decisions and bitter feelings toward the innocent people who care for her. The reader is urged into promotion of lawlessness, injustice, and cruelty on the behalf of both parties, never feeling certain who is the better or worse person.

The ending is unpredictable, but not so surprising as to be unbelievable. The final pages wrap up the story very well, leaving nothing fictional, but only the questions we face in real life. There is peace about the situation, but the reader is still undecided.

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