Puttering about in a Small Land

Review :

This was my first foray into the writing of Phillip K. Dick. Based on what he is generally known for, this is an odd duck of a starting point. Unlike "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep", "Puttering About In A Small Land" is nothing remotely akin to science fiction. Rather, this is a story about a man who appears to feel trapped by the confines of suburban family life in post-WW2 America.

The characters' names escape me as I'm writing this from memory, but the story centers around a man who leaves initially leaves his wife and child for another woman. The newly married couple leaves for California to start anew and take advantage of the high paying war industry jobs available. After the war, they have a child and the main story centers around enrolling their son in a boarding school to the North where the main character meets another couple from the neighborhood.

As the main story progresses, the main character essentially takes a liking to the neighbor's wife. As they both have children attending the same private boarding school, they find reason to travel to the school together. As one might expect, the journey to the school evolves more into the journey about mutual interest in one another.

What made this story so fascinating to me was the behavior of each of the main characters as the sordid details continued to unfold. In a modern story of this type, there always seems to be a pronounced reaction of revenge and anger in the face of unfaithful behavior. Being set in the 1950's, there is a continual sense of awkwardness and dullness of emotion. On the surface, it sounds like a recipe for a misfire. Instead, I had the perspective of watching through a glass tank as the beings trapped inside were discovering these new emotions and feelings in real time.

I can see why this book might not be for everyone, but I highly recommend it for someone who might enjoy a seemingly standard story told in such a different way.

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