“The Leftovers” is a novel written by Tom Perrotta about the Rapture. Except it’s not about the Rapture. It’s really about the human response to an unexplainable tragedy.
To be honest, I came to this book, after absolutely loving the HBO series, created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrota, which I consider the best television show on the air. So, going into this novel, I was carrying unreasonable expectations. While the story did not quite live up to those expectations, I did enjoy this book.
Summary from the Publisher: “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.”
While this appears to be a high concept, premise heavy, story, it’s a very subtle, intimate, portrayal of grief. The main character, Kevin, has to deal with his daughter, who is a teenager and does teenager things, which are enhanced thanks to the existential crises this event presents. His wife, who left him to join a new cult, called “The Guilty Remnant” who believe it’s their mission to remind everyone, every day, of the people that were lost. His estranged son disappeared and is now living with a different cult, a group that worships at the altar of Holy Wayne. Kevin, not only has to deal with his fractured family but as mayor, the whole town of Mapleton.
What makes this story work is Tom Perrota’s ability to balance grief with humor. He does an excellent job of displaying the absurdity of trying to deal with a global event, where people just disappear. No explanation. Instead of a huge government investigation and fast paced plot, he concentrates on the intimate lives of the citizens in Mapleton.
I would recommend ‘The Leftovers’ to anyone who prefers the contemplative and absurdity of tragedy, over the bombastic, generic and plot-heavy story that this premise entails. I know I do.
Have you read “The Leftovers”? What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading.