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The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The Leftovers (2011)

by Tom Perrotta

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1,3891325,474 (3.41)79
  1. 10
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: If you appreciated the "what if" quality of The Leftovers and its examination of a changed society in which people are struggling to accept the new normal, you may want to read the dystopian classic Brave New World.

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The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

★ ★ ★ ★

Description: What if—whoosh, right now, with no explanation—a number of us simply vanished? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down?

That’s what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out. Because nothing has been the same since it happened—not marriages, not friendships, not even the relationships between parents and children.

This is a difficult book for me to review. Not because I didn’t like it because I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason I like it. The plot at times dragged on and the characters themselves were difficult to get into at first. But for some reason, I was sucked in from the beginning, curious to get answers about events and the people. The book didn’t answer all those questions but I was so engrossed by the book that it didn’t even occur to me until the book was over that those questions weren’t answered. I liked the psychological progression of each of the characters – the different ways they handled the sudden Departure through the years. An interesting subject and I learned to love the characters.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
I like the premise: The Rapture happens - but rather than it being all the zealous Christians who are taken, it's a random selection of people - all types, all ages.

Perrotta is also a good writer - his characters seem real and believable, and I found myself caring about them, even when they weren't doing much.

Which is good, because for a lot of the book, they weren't really doing much. The book isn't very plot-driven, it's more of an exploration of the various forms of grief that manifest when people lose their loved ones, and experience existential crises of faith. My criticism of it is that it doesn't really do enough to distinguish this "Rapture" from other times when many people have been lost. In Perrotta's scenario, I'd say that maybe a little less than 5% of the population disappears - enough that pretty much everyone knows someone who was "taken," but not enough to bring society to a standstill. War and plague have actually disrupted societies far more. And Perrotta does acknowledge that many, if not most people, just get over it and go on with their daily routines - it's just that the book focuses on those who let the mysterious event be the pick that begins to unravel their lives. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
The premise attracted me, but it was very slow, and nothing especially exciting in the plot developed until half way through the 7th of 8 cd's. I was expecting something that examined the rapture-like event a little more closely, but that is my problem and not the author's. No reason to expect that those "leftover" would come to understand exactly what happened with time. I was really torn between the 2 and the 3. Worth the read I suppose, especially is you like sad, unanchored people. ( )
  MaureenCean | Feb 2, 2016 |
In this novel, Perrotta explores a world much like our own, but with the major difference that, in his imagined universe, three per cent of the people of the Earth had suddenly vanished (a few years before the events of the novel) without leaving a trace of evidence as to what caused their disappearance, where they have gone and, most troubling of all- why they have left everyone else behind. While fundamentalist Christians describe the mass disappearance as the Rapture, although the disappeared include proportional numbers of non-Christians, atheists, and unsavory individuals such as Charles Manson, while leaving millions of the presumably "saved" un-Raptured, the general secular term for the event becomes the Sudden Departure. The vast majority left to go on with their lives are the "Leftovers" and this is their story.

Unlike the HBO series based on the novel, other than the initial Departure itself, there is not much of the supernatural in this tale. There is the cult of the Guilty Remnants, who believe the End is Near, who take up smoking as a sacrament and a vow of silence and go about annoying people with their morose message. There is also the cult of Holy Wayne, who seems to have supernormal powers of empathy but who turns out to be an all too human con man. And, representing the ordinary man in response to unfathomable tragedy, is Kevin Garvey, mayor of Mapleton, New York, whose family has fallen apart and whose community has also been traumatized by the Departure and its aftermath of emotional stress. It is a tale of loss and grief, and also of hope and the suggestion of recovery. ( )
  ChuckNorton | Feb 1, 2016 |
I found this an enjoyable read, with a story and characters that kept me interested and looking forward to opportunities to read more. It was nothing incredibly deep but held some nice reflections on loss, memory, love...how events change shape in restrospect. I also liked the speculation on the types of religious groups that may form in the wake of a "rapture-like" event. They seemed fairly plausible to me. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
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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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For Nina and Luke
First words
Laurie Garvey hadn't been raised to believe in the Rapture.
"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."


"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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