The drive to provide a home for one's family is central among the themes and social issues explored in House of Sand and Fog. The title is instructive, because the two images of "sand" and "fog" perfectly symbolize the ironies inherent in the actions of the characters as they seek to satisfy this basic drive. Each of the three principal characters—Kathy Nicola Lazaro, Colonel Behrani, and Lester Burdon—wants the security of a home, the experience of a family, a position in the community. The situation of each is similar at the beginning of the novel; each is experiencing a serious dislocation, a wrenching separation from the home that he or she had previously had. Although the particulars of each person's situation are different, at the center of each is a gaping psychological void of such dimension that each character is essentially hollow and thus terribly fragile. Consequently, each makes choices that, instead of leading to the desired goal of home, family, and security, result in cumulative disasters that echo those of ancient Greek tragedy. As the Greeks put it, the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and the "house," the palace, the family is brought down as these fundamentally good but flawed people find their fates intersecting in this house of fog and sand.

At the center of the novel is a cluster of social issues and values that define the theme of the American dream. Stated positively, the dream includes a loving...

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