Married couple Patty and Walter Berglund are central to the novel. These "young pioneers" superficially represent the American
ideal. They rehab their old house, recycle, and raise two children in St. Paul, Minn. Life is not, however, sunshine and roses
at the Berglund's home. It never was. The simmering discontent erupts early in the novel when Patty slashes the neighbor's
tires, Walter takes a job in Washington, D.C., and their rebellious son, Joey, moves in with the right-wing neighbors.