House of Sand and Fog Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
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In the summer of 1993, Kathy Nicolo is mistakenly evicted from her house-34 Bisgrove Street in Corona, California-because she did not pay the back-taxes owed by the owner of the house at 34 Biscove Street. Her house is purchased at a public auction by Genob Sarhang Massoud Amir Behrani (formerly a colonel in the Imperial Airforce of Iranian dictator Reza Shah Pahlavi) for $45,000. Behrani gives the county a $10,000 certified check drawn on the Bank of America as down payment. He quickly pays the remaining $35,000 in cash, and, within weeks, has his family moved out of its Berkeley apartment and into the Corona house, from which Kathy was now evicted. Since the house's purchase price was about 1/4 of its market value, Behrani's plan is to resell it for profit. Several weeks prior, his daughter Soraya had married into a wealthy Iranian immigrant family. Although Behrani and his family are U.S. citizens, at this point his new in-laws are not yet.
When Kathy was evicted from her Corona house, she was served papers, one containing a telephone number for a Legal Aid office (under California law, those who could not afford lawyers were given access to the courts through such offices). After Kathy's state-paid lawyer gives notice to the San Mateo County Tax Office, the county recognizes and admits its error and asks Behrani to sell the house back for the full auction price, thereafter to be returned to Kathy. He says he will only sell it back to them for the house's full market value. Although Kathy has redress through the courts, she has nowhere to live while her lawyer's suit against the tax office makes its way through the courts. However, a police officer named Lester Burdon, who happened to be on duty the day Kathy was evicted, falls in love with her; the two create a temporary home at a friend's fishing cabin on the Purisima River-a stiflingly hot cabin where there is no running water, no electricity, and no phone, and where mosquitoes abound.
Conflict over the house in Corona is the core of this novel. Kathy pleads with Behrani (and talks with his wife and son, Nadereh (Nadi) and Esmail). One evening, Officer Lester Burdon, believing that it's not right for Kathy to lose her house to wealthy foreigners because of a bureaucratic error, threatens Behrani by stating that the INS deports people every day. (In response to this threat, Behrani files a formal complaint the next morning.) A day later, Kathy attempts suicide but is rescued by Behrani. She again tries to kill herself, and this time her life is saved by Nadereh, Behrani's wife. Lester later breaks into the Corona house-fearing for Kathy's safety-and holds at gunpoint the very people, he soon realizes, who saved Kathy's life. His realization comes too late to prevent the tragedy that unfolds: the novel concludes with Esmail, Nadereh, and Behrani shot dead and Kathy and Lester in prison.
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Appearances and Realities
The novel though begins with Behrani living a double life: he leaves home well dressed-then changes clothes and goes to work picking up trash for the Highway Department by day, acting as a convenience store clerk by night...then he changes back and returns home well dressed. His wife Nadi thinks that maintaining the appearance of wealth is essential to their daughter's finding a wealthy husband (indeed, such a marriage occurred shortly before the novel begins). Kathy also tries to keep up appearances by not telling her mother that Nick has left her, pretending that everything is fine, which in a way she thinks it is, when she and Lester fall in love-but things are certainly not all right in the way she leads her mother to believe. Appearances are also changed by the fog, which obscures even the most familiar objects close at hand, and...
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