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The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
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The Leftovers (2011)

by Tom Perrotta

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A good book, disappointing ending. ( )
  janeyhoho | Jul 19, 2014 |
The Good: The Leftovers is an impressive novel. It's an addictive read that takes a post-apocalyptic scenario and explores how people deal with it. The different reactions people have. The ways people cope and move on. This is a deep novel that manages to stay entertaining throughout. It deals with topics that are depressing and makes the situations enthralling.

The Bad: Some of the characters felt a little forced. They didn't feel as genuine as the overall novel itself. Beyond that, this seems like a story that only works on paper. The TV show completely failed to suck me in like the novel did. ( )
  TequilaReader | Jul 14, 2014 |
Inconclusive loss

Mapleton, the fictional town that provides the setting for Perrotta’s tale of life after a cataclysmic event—which might or might not have been the Rapture as foretold by Christian prophecy—represents the ideal American small town. Families (or what’s left of them) strive to maintain harmony, locals gather at the town’s quaint watering hole (cleverly named the Carpe Diem), middle-aged men play in a summer softball league, and all seems right with the world—except for the gaping hole at the center of everyone’s lives.

Although the purported focus of the narrative is every character’s struggle to live a meaningful, happy life after the unexpected and inexplicable random loss of loved ones, Perrotta succeeds in depicting the sense of profound loss that is inherent to existence. The loss caused by the Sudden Departure (which is the name given to the disappearance of 2% of the Earth’s population, since it’s impossible to determine whether the event was the “actual” Rapture) occurred three years before the novel begins. The numerous complex and sharply drawn characters, whose lives are intertwined in typical small-town ways, face the grueling consequences of survivors’ guilt (most deftly portrayed by the oddball cult that calls themselves the Guilty Remnant), but they must also cope with ongoing loss that is not necessarily caused by—even though it might have been exposed by—the Sudden Departure.

Kevin Garvey, the mayor of Mapleton—whose wife has abandoned the family to join the Guilty Remnant—fights for his relationship with his daughter Jill, who is dealing with ambivalent feelings toward her best friend Aimee. Nora, who lost her husband and two kids to the Sudden Departure, obsessively rides her bike and watches Spongebob Squarepants reruns in a pathetic effort to find meaning in her life now that she is alone. Kevin’s son, Tom, leaves college to join another cult, only to face betrayal and more loss.

The novel deviates from the conventional narrative structure and uses a more episodic framework, which fittingly reflects the seemingly haphazard nature of life after the Sudden Departure. Consequently, there is no neat conclusion here—certain episodes seem to reach a decisive turning point, but the novel simply ends without neatly wrapping up numerous narrative strands. A sense of hopelessness pervades the novel, which—along with the inconclusive narrative—might alienate more than a few readers. This novel, however, is worth your time, as long as you’re not expecting many laughs along the way. ( )
  jimrgill | Jun 30, 2014 |
I know I read this book, but for the life of me I can't remember a single thing about it. I remember feeling slightly disappointed at the mundaneness of it after such a big event, which in retrospect is probably the point of the novel. However, I don't remember anything about it besides the premise, and don't know or care what happened to the character. It left absolutely zero impression on me.

I originally rated it as 3.5 stars when I read it, but now a year later and I can't remember anything about the book, I'm going to lower it to 2.5. I must have enjoyed it to some degree,but the fact that it left no impression makes me think it wasn't that great after all. ( )
  LAKobow | Jun 13, 2014 |
Summary: This book revolves around the Rapture and follows a group of people who are left behind in the suburban community of Mapleton. They must begin to rebuild their lives after the sudden and mysterious disappearance of more than 100 people.

Personal reaction: I really enjoyed this novel and can't wait to watch the new HBO series that is based on it.
  nwoodley | Apr 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
One might argue that The Leftovers is missing the details of the Sudden Departure that provide the book’s premise, but that is irrelevant to Perrotta’s purpose. In a post-9/11, post-economic-collapse world, we do not require an apocalyptic event to underwrite the plausibility of sudden, catastrophic change. Perrotta’s true interests — and the novel’s rich gifts — lie in exploring the way that traditional suburban structures of meaning fail to cohere under the pressure of such changes
 
Perrotta suggests that in times of real trouble, extremism trumps logic and dialogue becomes meaningless. Read as a metaphor for the social and political splintering of American society after 9/11, it’s a chillingly accurate diagnosis.
 
It is the portions of “The Leftovers” where Mr. Perrotta avoids the more cartoony and melodramatic aspects of his story (having to do with the Sudden Departure and the Guilty Remnant) that are by far the most persuasive. And it is these same sections that showcase his gifts as a novelist: his talent for depicting the ordinary (as opposed to metaphoric or supernatural); his affectionate but astringent understanding of his characters and their imperfections; his appreciation of the dark undertow of loss that lurks beneath the familiar, glossy surface of suburban life.
 
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Laurie Garvey hadn't been raised to believe in the Rapture.
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"Is there anything else you want to know? It's kind of a relief to tell you about it."

Nora knew what she meant. As distressing as it was to learn the details of Doug's affair, it also felt therapeutic, as if a missing chunk of the past were being returned to her.

"Just one thing. Did he ever talk about me?"

Kylie rolled her eyes. "Only all the time."

"Really?"

"Yeah. He always said he loved you."

"You're kidding." Nora couldn't hide her skepticism. "He hardly ever said that to me. Not even when I said it first."

"It was like a ritual. Right after we had sex, he'd get all serious and say, This isn't about me not loving Nora." She uttered these words in a deep, manly voice, not at all like Doug's. "Sometimes I said it along with him. This isn't about me not loving Nora."

"Wow. You must've hated me."

"I didn't hate you," Kylie said. "I was just jealous."

"Jealous?" Nora tried to laugh, but the sound died in her throat. It had been a long time since she'd thought of herself as someone other people could be jealous of. "Why?"

"You had everything, you know? The husband, the house, those beautiful kids. All your friends and your nice clothes, the yoga and the vacations. And I couldn’t even make him forget you when he was in my bed."

Nora closed her eyes. Doug had been foggy in her mind for a long time, but all at once he was clear again. She could see him lying beside Kylie, naked and smug after fucking her, earnestly reminding her of his family commitments, his enduring love for his wife, letting her know that she could only have so much, and nothing more.

"He didn't care for me," Nora explained. "He just couldn’t stand to see you happy."
Whern your words are futile, you are better off keeping them to yourself, or never even thinking them in the first place.
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What would happen if The Rapture actually took place and millions of people just disappeared from the earth? How would normal people respond? The residents of Mapleton use a variety of coping mechanisms in this thought-provoking novel about love, connection, and loss.… (more)

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