All New People closely follows Anne Lamott’s life, a major event of which was the early death of her father, also a writer. The novel begins with a prologue in which the protagonist, Nanny Goodman, is undergoing hypnosis therapy. She says that her life is a mess and her mind is broken. Affairs, drugs, alcohol, depression, anxiety, fears of suicide, madness, and death constitute an insupportable burden. Nanny is in her twenties, but the therapist requires her to regress to childhood, reminding one both of Carl Jung’s admonitions about the need to go back in order to go forward and of Christ’s words about suffering little children.
The narrative proper begins with a largely idyllic picture of a pre-Yuppie Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and moves chronologically to Nanny’s present, wherein she has presumably learned to shoulder the burdens under which she was sinking. Over the course of this narrative, the Edenic green and golden Marin County that Nanny loved disappears, along with its most famous landmark, mythic Mount Tamalpais, known as the Sleeping Woman. The landscape is a major presence in the novel, but it is gradually submerged by present reality as it becomes one of America’s most sought-after and costliest pieces of real estate. The transformation of the beautiful prelapsarian rural county into an upscale world of high-priced shops, expensive restaurants, architect-designed houses, luxury cars, and wealthy people parallels Nanny’s loss of innocence and her slide into a slough of despond, now that she has no anchors.
As the 1950’s become the 1960’s, the social and political upheavals of the Vietnam War infect all the characters with a pervasive unease. Fathers abandon families, families break up, people break down, and drugs, insecurities, and anomie proliferate. Nanny’s brother Casey is setting a course for trouble with...
(The entire section is 780 words.)