When Roger and Birginia Lindahl enroll their son Gregg in Mrs. Alt's Los Padres Valley School in the mountains of Southern California, their marriage is already in deep trouble. Roger is a slight, insecure, tense man; Virginia is tall, slim, intelligent and somewhat overbearing, but not as difficult as her mother, Marion Watson, whose presence is a contrast irritant to Roger. The Lindahls meet Chic and Liz Bonner whose two sons also board at Mrs. Alt's school. Chic is an ambitious, conventional businessman and Liz is pretty, plump, careless and loving. This meeting is a catalyst for a complicated series of emotions and traumas, set against the backdrop of suburban Los Angeles in the early fifties.
This is a realistic novel rich in insight, filled with details of everyday life, and skillfully told from three points of view. It is powerful, eloquent and gripping. Puttering About in a Small Land proves conclusively that Philip K. Dick did not have to leave Earth to hold the reader's attention.