The Leftovers

Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers

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.

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