The Wakemans live in Botolph, a large city in the northeastern U. S. The novel tells about their various efforts to pull themselves out of mental, physical, and spiritual slumps. The story includes three interludes that take place in a society that has gone haywire with technology and the paranormal. One of the characters wonders if reality is disintegrating.
“The World, the City, and the Wakemans” is a chronicle set in the early 1980’s about a family who live in a large city in the northeastern corner of the United States. Each member of the family wants to get out of a mental or spiritual or physical trough.
Amos Wakeman leaves his job in an insurance company to set up a shelter for disadvantaged children.
Caleb, a university teacher, wants to move a stagnant career ahead by bringing his studies of a little-known Central Asian country to a wide academic audience.
Diana, his wife, wants to leave a rehab hospital where she has lived for a year after suffering several strokes.
Mary, sister of Amos and Caleb, leaves a string quartet in which she plays viola for a temporary job in a bakery to get experience of ordinary life.
Stephen Hope, half-brother of Mary, Amos, and Caleb, has done well with a chain of restaurants he started. He puts his business success aside to run for mayor of the city.
Lucas, oldest son of Diana and Caleb, breaks away from his academic predilections and joins other family members to fight a gang of thugs that causes trouble for his father and uncle.
Other family members also figure in the story,
Three novella-length interludes tell about the imaginary adventures of young folks who resemble the youngest Wakemans in a future society that has gone haywire with technology and the paranormal.