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The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The Leftovers (2011)

by Tom Perrotta

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On October 14th, a large number of people up and disappeared. No one really knows what happened as it defied all explanation. Some were determined to label it The Rapture but as the author is quick to point out, it wasn’t purely Christians. As it happens, it appeared to be random selection. The novel primarily follows one family and how each person moved in different directions following the event.

The Garvey family eventually falls apart in the aftermath of “The Sudden Departure”. Kevin stays on as mayor of their small town. His wife, Laurie, ends up joining a cult-like group named The Guilty Remnant who’s only purpose is to dress all in white, constantly smoke cigarettes and stare at those who chose to ignore that the end of the world is on its way. Their two kids, Tom and Jill, drift apart. Tom begins to follow a self-proclaimed healer named “Holy Wayne” who promises to take away the pain of any survivors and Jill befriends a delinquent student named Aimee as she begins partying it up and neglecting school.

Perrotta really grabbed me when he named a select few notable people that vanished. Among the missing: Adam Sandler, The Pope, Vladimir Putin and Shaq! That’s pretty much where it ends in terms of focusing on the tragedy on a grand scale as Perrotta quickly began concentrating on the reactions of the key characters. At one point, Perrotta says of Tom,

That was the obligatory question. It seemed important, though it was hard to say why. No matter where the person was when it happened, the location always struck him as eerie and poignant.

When you’re talking about people vanishing while watching videos on YouTube or working out at the gym on an elliptical machine, it gave it just enough of a creepy feeling.

It’s easily one of the strangest post-apocalyptic novels I’ve ever read (if you can call it that, which I chose to). Not in the sense that it was totally out there but that the author chose not to spend a whole lot of time explaining the cause or the impact globally. He also neglected to weave religion into the story in any heavy-handed way. Instead, he created the event to let these characters shine through. While not complex, they were refreshing to read in their simplicity. It probably has a lot to do with his easily digestible prose – keeping me up all hours of the night and what-not.

If not for the ending, I could see giving maybe 4.5 stars. I’ve read a few reviews where people are more than satisfied with the end result but it just didn’t settle well with me. ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
What happens to those huwho remain after a rapturelike event causes a mass disappearance? This a study of how people behave in the midst of grief and a loss of their faith in a predictable future. Some choose a cult devoted to the idea of an immanent end of the world and some live a life that seems remarkably unaffected by the recent catastrophe. Interesting, but I found d that I didn't develop much connection with the characters. ( )
  gbelik | Apr 1, 2014 |
I put it down several times because it was moving around ideas slowly. I think I would enjoy the characters and the threads in the plot if it was instead told as several connected short stories.
  objectplace | Mar 17, 2014 |
The Leftovers are those left behind when many people on the planet are abruptly disappeared. It sounds like the Rapture, but the disappearances are random - Greta Van Susteren, Adam Sandler and the Pope are among the missing celebrities. Nevertheless, those remaining are prompted to make religious sense out of it all, and various oddball cults spring up to help people cope.

This book was very strange, and I mostly didn't like it. I get that the Sudden Disappearance was not really the point of the book, but when you use a plot device that dramatic, you owe the reader a little meat: the impact on the world economy, on war, on media, etc. Inside, the book focuses on the white-bread residents of an excruciatingly banal suburban town, and their - I'm sorry - boring little dramas.

If someone decided to write a parody of what a post-apocalyptic novel would be like if Tom Perrotta wrote it, they might come up with this. Somebody please tell me what I'm missing. ( )
  CasualFriday | Mar 9, 2014 |
A clever notion for a book. I wanted to like it but couldn't really get there. None of the characters came to life for me. Leftovers maybe, but left lingering in the fridge too long. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (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.
"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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