This novel is a deeply Confucian, metaphorical attempt to explain the outcome of the US Presidential Election of 2004. And the explanation is that many societies and ecological niches require a bully to be in charge of them in order to function well enough to survive. The bully may well shed some blood, and may often be wrong, but at least he (and it would always, pretty much, be a he), causes stuff to happen.
The metaphors here come fast and heavy-handed. The husband, Jonathan Casper, is a nerdy scientist who forgets his promises to his family as he quests after a "prehistoric" giant squid. In her off-hours, the wife, Madeline, chases a giant man-shaped cloud. At work, Madeline investigates the pecking order of pigeons by disrupting their power structures and witnessing the devastating results. (Perhaps like many academics, Madeline neglected, before she started her experiment, to understand what a pecking order is. How lucky she is to have an adviser to explicitly explain that pigeons NEED to be dominated by moderately violent males in order to avoid rampant rape and murder by the underclasses in their society.)
One of the two Casper daughters copes with her problems with excessive piety. The other responds to the chaos at home by building a bomb and ignorantly attempting to apply the Communist Manifesto to the running of her school.