When a bizarre phenomenon causes the cataclysmic disappearances of numerous people all over the world, Kevin Garvey, the new mayor of a once-comfortable suburban community, struggles to help his neighbors heal while enduring the fanatical religious conversions of his wife and son.
But no, the story just blathers on about nothing. Just regular suburban Real Housewives of bullshit. I just can't take it anymore. So, fuck "The Leftovers" in its dirty asshole. Because, its bad, and it should feel bad.
The author attempts to answer such questions by focusing on several survivors in the small town of Mapleton. Struggling with the feelings of loss and guilt, the various characters try to make sense of the inexplicable. The author doesn't take the easy out of answering what happened to those who were taken. There are no happy reunions here. But that just makes the novel all the more powerful and real. The truth is that after such an event there would be plenty of people who would freak out, mass depression, new beliefs to try and explain it all and a whole lot of other people just determined to get on with their lives. The Leftovers isn't a happy go lucky story, but it is certainly a unique one and worth the read.
The story centers on residents of a small town called Mapleton - a suburban area where kids walked to school and moms baked cookies in aprons. The town was brought to its knees on that fateful October 14. The disappearance of seemingly random people made everyone wonder "why"? Those who believed in Rapture could not understand why they were not taken, while others wondered why God would take people who were not even Christian. And for those left behind, their hearts had voids that no amount of time could fill.
While many characters floated in and out of The Leftovers, the "main" family belonged to Kevin, mayor of Mapleton after the Sudden Departure. Kevin's family were not affected directly by the disappearances, but one by one, their lives fell apart. Kevin's wife, Laurie, fled to a cult called "Guilty Remnant" who wore white clothes, smoked cigarettes, stalked potential recruits and took a vow of silence. Kevin's son, Tom, became involved in another cult, led by a man who believed he could take people's pain away. And finally, Kevin's daughter, Jill, just got lost, befriending a bad influence and flunking her classes. It was painful to watch the disintegration of this family as they became lost in their grief.
The Leftovers was a fast-paced novel with a couple unexpected turns. The characters were believable, and my heart ached for their loss. The ending of the novel, though, was a disappointment for me. Without giving it away, let's just say I didn't find any of it plausible. I could wrap my brain around people's disappearances, cults and fake Messiahs, but what Perrotta presented at the end was too much of a stretch for me. I will be curious to know what other readers think.
Despite the ending, The Leftovers would make a fascinating book for discussion. If you're a fan of Perrotta's work, then I don't think you'll be disappointed in his latest, thought-provoking story.
Tom Perrotta's latest book The Leftovers tackles the Rapture--or, to be more accurate, the sociological and psychological effects of a "Rapture-like phenomenon"--with both mordant wit and generosity of spirit. As the book opens the world is still reeling from what is being called the "Sudden Departure," which saw millions of people around the world disappear from dinner tables and airplanes, classrooms and bedrooms and offices, all at the same moment. The world is still reeling, and people are still scratching their heads at the meaning of the event, which doesn't appear to have come from a religious place of reward and punishment, as those taken came from all faiths, and even included unbelievers.
Society as a whole has coped as well as can be expected. Leaders secular and religious have sought a cause or a reason for the event. Many have lost their faith. Cults have arisen, and two, the Guilty Remnant and the Healing Hug Movement, will play an important role in the lives of the Garveys, the family at the center of The Leftovers. The Guilty Remnant, or GR, is a group the mission of which is to remind those who remain that the end really is nigh, and that the way to reserve a place on the next elevator up is to take a vow of silence and mortify the flesh to assure one's readiness and purity. The GR dress in white and are never seen in public without a cigarette (a visible reminder that the physical self is the least important aspect of the person). The Healing Huggers follow a charismatic who calls himself Holy Wayne and who can take on an individual's spiritual pain, if only temporarily, through his hugs.
Each member of the Garvey family has dealt with the Sudden Departure differently. Father Kevin, who was elected mayor of the small town of Mapleton not long after the event, strives for normality. Kevin is relentlessly cheerful. He makes omelets for daughter Jill and her friend Aimee, arranges for an anniversary parade remembering those who were taken, waits for wife Laurie to come to her senses and return to him. Laurie has joined the Guilty Remnant, and can be seen around town dressed in white, smoking, and staring relentlessly at those targeted by her group for...censure? recruitment? judgement? It's never entirely clear. Elder child Tom left college to join Holy Wayne's entourage, and is now on the run from the scandal that has brought the cult down. And Jill, the younger child, just runs wild. She's shaved her head, smokes dope in the morning, cuts classes.
As in his previous novels (most recently Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher), Tom Perrotta manages both to skewer contemporary suburban sensibilities and to treat them with an achingly beautiful sensitivity. His characters, while as bristly, self-centered, and annoying as they come, are at the same time real and rich, and so well-rounded I identified with each in turn. I frequently found myself wondering as I read what form my dealing would take, were I to be in the position of the left behind. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'd join a cult. But a fun one.
The town is full of different reactions: cults develop and some people join them. Others are full of guilt or are upset because they, too, were not taken. One woman in town lost her entire family, and she sometimes seems to be the most confused of all. Many people in the town, people like Kevin, the Mayor, and his daughter Jill, have not decided what happened, but they want to get back to their lives as they were before. They have varying degrees of success.
This is a thought-provoking book. If I lost someone like this, if they just up and disappeared, would I figure they were gone forever? Or would I keep the faith that they might come back, that they could suddenly reappear just as they suddenly disappeared?
I did not want THE LEFTOVERS to end. Even so, I've decided that it's a 4-star novel, not 5. Why?
Although its observations about the human condition, all the possible reactions to life-changing events, is well written and right on, although this book is a page turner, it didn't grab me the way 5-star novels have. It kept me expecting something more.
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.
Much to the surprise of some of the true believers (many of whom are already a little ticked about being delegated to Leftover status), the chosen ones include Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Christians, and members of every other imaginable religion - even a considerable number of hedonistic non-believers known to have thoroughly enjoyed their time in this world. That it all seems to have been so random is, in fact, the most difficult part of the experience for some to understand.
Some disappeared from elevators as they moved between floors, some from living room couches while in the middle of conversations with friends, and others from their chairs as they consumed what would be their final meals. Some families lost fathers, some lost mothers, and some lost a child or two. Others were shocked to become the only Leftover in their immediate family. Amazingly enough, however, life would soon resume its normal rhythms while the Leftovers sought their own ways to cope with their losses.
The Leftovers, which begins three years after the big event, centers itself on the Garvey family: Kevin, who becomes Mapleton’s new mayor; his wife, Laura, who joins the Guilty Remnant cult; Tom, their son who becomes part of Holy Wayne’s Healing Hug movement; and teenaged Jill who still lives at home with her father. The Guilty Remnant bunch and the Healing Hug movement, though they are very different types of cults, are two of the mechanisms through which people try to cope with what has happened. That even a family like the Garveys, one of the lucky ones to remain whole after the supposed Rapture experience, is tested beyond its breaking point illustrates the emotional severity of what has happened around the world.
This is a book about coping and healing. Some turn inward, some to cults, some to family and friends; others ignore it all or become suicidal. As Tom Perrotta mentioned at the Texas Book Festival in October, 2011, his book is set during the “seven-year period of Tribulation after the Rapture” and he wonders if “anyone would even remember the rapture three years later.” This is the question that, with the help of his fictional Garvey family, he explores in The Leftovers.
However, for reasons difficult to explain, The Leftovers is a surprisingly flat reading experience. None of the book’s main characters, other than perhaps Kevin Garvey, are particularly appealing and the book, by spending so much time with its two weird cults, seems to gloss over the magnitude of the loss so many ordinary people would have experienced. One cannot help but feel that The Leftovers could have packed a more profound emotional clout than it does – meaning that the book, for many readers, will be a disappointing near miss.
Rated at: 3.0
As bizarre as this book could have been... it simply wasn't. In a way it felt like I was just reading a suburban family novel. Not something that's as peculiar as the rapture. There wasn't any attention grabbing, holy-shit-what-just-happened action or dramatic, gut-wrenching, cry-your-eyes-out scenes. It was very unremarkable. Even when the G.R members start being murdered it was uneventful.
There were a lot of different ways that this book could have went especially since we were given many different characters. Yet, everything seemed ordinary and monotonous. I felt like the characters never really changed or grew from who they were in the beginning.
I really wanted to love The Leftovers, but it’s just one of those books where you love the premise and everything that it could have been only to be let down by the story itself.
This is the basic plot behind Tom Perrotta’s book, The Leftovers.
Have you ever read a book like Arthur Hailey’s Airport, with an enormous cast of characters and lots of action? A book that feels like a strange combination of a soap opera and an action movie. That’s what The Leftovers reminded me of. It’s full of women running around on their men and men running around on their women, and men double-crossing other men, and women ranting about other women. There is also this odd angst and anomie that hangs over the characters, a sense of what-do-we-do-now, that has characters abandoning their spouses and leaving home to join strange cults.
Thank you to the publisher who provided this copy for review.
In this small town, everyone was touched in some way by the Sudden Departure. Each character though faces different challenges. I think that's what I found the most interesting; was how each person reacted to this life changing event. Some question their faith, some ignore the question all together and others just go on living (albeit lives that are seriously different).
This book was scary, curious and introspective. I always look Tom Perrotta and this book certainly ranks among his best (though I say that about all his books).
The book is set after the Rapture. Or something like it. Millions have simultaneously disappeared, just as foretold in Revelation and eagerly awaited by the credulous. Except that lots----maybe most----of the vanished don’t seem to be particularly good Christians. Or Christian. Or good. Which causes a lot of what might be called cognitive dissonance in the Left Behind. Some----the Guilty Remnant cult---persist in the belief that the End Is Nigh and offer chain-smoking, silent reproach to their neighbors’ heedlessness. Another, furious that he didn’t get disappeared himself, publishes a tabloid exposing the secret sins of those who were. But others still try to get on with life as though nothing had happened, isolating the inexplicable in “the same place you hid the knowledge that you were going to die, so you could live your life without being depressed every minute of every day.” The principal characters include both the shattered and the merely shaken, and their painful and funny relationships drive much of the action. But in keeping with his gathering darkness, Perrotta’s narrative takes several unexpected, violent turns before ending on a note of cautious hope.
The author makes several interesting choices. First is to set the story several years after what he calls the Sudden Departure. For this reason the book revolves not around the singular event----which would suck all the oxygen out of the room---- but its human consequences. Second, he describes the Departure itself only peripherally. Those who’ve actually “witnessed” a disappearance seem to have looked away for a split second, or left the room for a glass of water, when the event occurred. Though in one memorable instance the witness is a young woman doing a reverse cowgirl on a frat boy when he’s called to Jesus----and even then, she wouldn’t have been facing him, would she? The cumulative effect of these decisions is to keep what is clearly the most astonishing event in history from overwhelming the story Perrotta wants to tell.
A novel whose animating idea is so audacious could easily have degenerated into slapstick or spookery. In Perrotta’s hands it is funny, humane, and deeply moving. This is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary writer.
The Sudden Departure—which disappeared millions around the world—leaves those left behind feeling bewildered, lost, angry, confused and searching for answers. The diverse responses of the “leftovers” are illustrated by the residents of the small town of Mapleton.
For Laurie Garvey, the confusion and emotions of the Sudden Departure prompt her to join the Guilty Remnant (G.R.)—a cult-like group whose members take vows of silence, live communally, smoke continuously and stalk members of the local community.
Laurie’s decision to leave home and join the G.R. leaves her husband Kevin and her teenage daughter Jill at loose ends. Kevin—who feels that the only sane reaction to the Sudden Departure is to continue living as normally as possible—finds meaning and solace in his role as Mapleton’s mayor. Jill—cast adrift in the confusing world of high school and young womanhood without the guiding hand of her mother—seeks answers by running with the fast crowd.
Although he’d already left for college before the Sudden Departure, Tom Garvey finds himself drifting and searching for answers until he falls in with a charismatic preacher named Holy Wayne. However, recent scandals swirling around Wayne are causing Tom to question his purpose and direction in life.
In addition to chronicling the lives of the Garvey family, we’re also introduced to Nora Durst—a Mapleton resident who lost her husband and children in the Sudden Departure and faces an odd sort of widowhood. Viewed as a tragic hero, Nora clings to the past while trying valiantly to figure out how to continue living a meaningful life.
As the events of the book unfold, Perrotta offers up a satisfying mix of humor, sadness and detail that makes his characters come alive. Although my initial thrill was in finding out how Perrotta would explore a Rapture-like event, I quickly got absorbed in the lives of the characters and their emotional journeys. Although the Sudden Departure is a great hook, The Leftovers is still grounded in the realities of suburban life that Perrotta explored so brilliantly in his books Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher.
I loved this book! Whenever I was reading, everything disappeared and I was completely inside the story. What I love most about Perrotta’s writing is that he fills his stories with little details that make everything feel so authentic and real. His characters feel like people who live in my little section of suburbia. In other words, his writing rings true. So despite a premise that seems fantastical and “out there,” The Leftovers ends up feeling grounded and relevant to our lives right now. I encourage you to check it out. It was one of the most interesting and involving books I’ve read this year.
In his newest book, Tom Perrotta examines the lives of residents of an upscale, small, suburban community as they come to terms with a post-rapture world. Perrotta captures the full range of reactions over the three years post-event including those who seek solace in organized groups (cults?), the previously-religious who had been certain of their salvation and who now find themselves lost, and those who are simply trying their best to carry on. The Leftovers is a great study in group dynamics and society building. In turn heartbreaking and hopeful, The Leftovers is a thoughtful examination of what life would be like for those of us left behind.
Kevin is the mayor of Mapleton and although his family weathered the Sudden Departure, it definitely left them all broken in their own way. Kevin's wife Laurie does not think that the way they are living is benefiting society, so she joins a group that believes they are fulfilling a greater purpose. His son Tom was in college when the Departure took place, so after losing half of his classmates to this event, he withdrew from school to follow an odd character who also thought had all the answers. Kevin's high school daughter Jill still lives at home, along with her best friend that moved in, but high school has been elevated to a new level since the Departure.
We follow all of these characters lives throughout the novel, as we get a closer look at their hopes and fears. They are all trying to move on with their lives, but find themselves stalled as there is so much uncertainty in the world where they live. Half of the population is gone and who is to say that the rest of us won't be gone tomorrow?
There is so much to contemplate within this novel and I really feel that I shouldn't disclose any more about it that would ruin the story for you. I love stories that make me stop and think, "How would I react in this situation?" That is the type of book this is and the narrator did a great job of keeping the listener's attention. With themes of end times, forgiveness, love and redemption, this book will give the reader or listener plenty to ponder long after you have turned the last page or listened to the last track.
The Leftovers is quite a unique book and totally fiction. Or is it? Although, some of what would happen if a number of people would just disappear off the face of the Earth all at once, is totally logical, some we can never know. Planes would crash, accidents on our roadways would be instant, empty seats in the classrooms and so forth. But what exactly would happen emotionally, to those left behind, after such a tragedy? Perrotta has taken this situation and brought it to life in "The Leftovers." By focusing on a few families in the community of Mapleton, one of which includes the family of the mayor, Kevin Garvey. Perrotta begins the story after the vanishing. Although it has been almost a year, wounds are still fresh for many in this small community. Others have gone back to their daily routines, including married men and women dating as if nothing had happened to their spouse. Their disapproval of this being one main reason why the Guilty Remnant has come into being. The Guilty Remnant is a cult that has recruited many since the vanishing occurred, and Laurie the mayors wife, is now one of their followers. Laurie seems to have regrets for leaving her family behind, yet she is not intending on going back, even though she is free to return anytime. In the meantime Kevin tries to lead a life that is as normal as possible, even if that means returning to the dating scene, now that his wife has deserted him. While Jill, the daughter of the mayor longs for her mother, she continues with school and hanging out with her regular group of friends. But since the vanishing her friend Amie has taken up residency in her home. Why not, they have the room now, with her mother in the cult and her brother Tom off in another direction. Tom finds he is not being able to emotionally return to his normal college routine, and decides to follow a prophet called Holy Wayne. There, Tom soon learns Wayne isn't as holy as he first thought him to be. Other characters join the mix, including Nora, the only person in the community who has lost her entire family to the vanishing. Nora finds out, after the vanishing, that her husband wasn't as dedicated to their marriage as she thought. While a former priest and member of the community decides he has the right to air the dirty laundry of those who have vanished. It took me a little while to get into this tale, maybe because it seems like such a far fetched story. I have heard of the Rapture and have read about how many Christians believe it will come to pass in this lifetime. However in The Leftovers, some of those who vanished came from all sorts of backgrounds, some where cheating husbands, others didn't believe in God, causing those left behind to question the reasons why this had happened, while trying to make sense out of it. As a reader I tried to figure out myself why those taken might have been taken, even though this is fiction it is quite thought provoking. This story reminded me of the Twilight Zone TV series or something Steven King would write. Certainly entertainment from another dimension and time, maybe even our future.
The author captures American suburbia perfectly. I love how he shows the not-quite-right creepiness of the new order of things. But perhaps I was looking for a stronger emotional connection to the characters and I didn't feel that all of it worked. Good in a thought-provoking kind of way, though.
Here’s the premise: millions of people around the world have disappeared at the same time in a Rapture-like event. How does this affect those who are left behind?
The novel begins three years after the mass disappearances and we see how citizens of a small town, Mapleton, are coping with their various losses: husbands who have lost wives, wives who have lost husbands, parents who have lost children and children who have lost parents.
“There I was reading about the Rapture, and I started to think, I know that feeling. I know that feeling of being left behind. We’re always being left behind, we’re always living in a world where there are these spaces where people we knew and loved used to be.” New York Times interview
Despite the supra-natural incident at the core of the novel, Mr. Perrotta seems more interested in exploring how fast our culture moves us to forget trauma. (The title of this post is a quote from an interview with the author.) On a personal scale, most of us have had the experience of losing someone and all too soon being expected to “move on”. On a global scale, we tend to lose our grasp on world events as they quickly degenerate into “history”.
Happily,I found Mr. Perrotta’s characters to be true-to-life, which means, don’t look for neat resolutions.
My favourite quote is actually an aside from one of the main characters: “The Garvey clan was like the old Soviet Union, a once mighty power that had dissolved into a bunch of weak and cranky units.”
The author tucks his expert handling of language behind a seemingly effortless colloquial patter. I enjoyed The Leftovers but I always go for books that imitate rather than improve on life.
An 8 out 10 for me.