The narrative focuses on a family of four in a fictional town called Colvert, but it’s a fairly even-handed composite of modern suburban life. It’s not disparaging or hectoring. It simply recognizes the unintended consequences of land-use patterns of the past half-century that relied very heavily on the automobile. Decisions that people made long ago to put greater distance between the places they live and work seemed to make sense when they made them — to gain more quiet, more space, less proximity to pollution. But the impact of those decisions multiplied millions of times over many, many years has created, in fact, more pollution for all, heavier dependence on gasoline (which drives up price), less opportunity to walk and more opportunity to gain weight and weakened older communities.