Dubus has written probably the first best-selling novel about the experience of an immigrant Muslim in the United States. The tight story concerns a young woman who loses her family house because of not paying a trivial amount of taxes, and its being bought by an ex-colonel in the shah's military who is trying to build a new life for his family and himself in the San Francisco area. The two of them battle over this house – she totally outraged at being evicted and he desperate to keep it. In a strange development, one of the policemen who evicted the woman from the house then becomes her lover and her ally in the effort to retrieve the property. As the days go by, the battle between the two sides escalates, ending finally in tragedy for them both, deaths on one side and imprisonment on the other.

The story line was inspired in part by a newspaper clipping about a woman who lost her house and in part by the author's long-term involvement with an Iranian woman whose father had been a colonel in the shah's air force. As a Marxist, Dubus was horrified by the shah's Iran and even today says he "loves" the analogy between it and the Third Reich.1 Despite this fierce antagonism, the colonel is the most sympathetic character in his book, as well as a vehicle for a critique of American society. Dubus himself studied Persian and made a real, and successful, effort to capture the sweetness and the foibles of Iranians; for example, even as the colonel shows an obsession with maintaining appearances in front of his fellow exiles, he has the nerve to disapprove of Americans for being too focused on money, an attitude typical of many immigrants.

1 Interview with Andre Dubus III by Robert Birnbaum at http://www.identitytheory.com/people/birnbaum3.html