leftovers Flipping Pages: The Leftovers

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Here in LA, autumn is just starting to show itself and we’re bearing down on the end of the year, with everything it brings: holidays, parties, cold weather. And according to the Mayan calendar: the end of days! (I’m not one to believe such things. No, I’m more the cynical type, I like to picture those old Mayans just getting lazy and giving up their little calendar project. Similar to several crafting projects I’ve abandoned over the years.) In the spirit of 2012, I thought we should read a “the world is at an end!” book. Fun!

I have to admit, I’ve never read any of Tom Perrotta’s books before. I’m aware of his rep as a titan of the suburban novel and liked the movies that were adapted from his novels, particularly Election with Reese Witherspoon. The Leftovers is set mostly in the small town of Mapleton after the Sudden Departure, a rapture-like event in which millions of people across the world simply disappeared at the very same moment. They just ceased to exist while going about their daily routines. No one knows exactly what happened to them, though there are countless theories. Everyone left behind has to deal with their losses and somehow get on with living in a world of complete uncertainty. The main focus is on the Garvey family, which fell apart in the wake of the Sudden Departure. Kevin is mayor of Mapleton and pushes for speedy healing and forward progress, though his wife abandoned their family to join a religious cult whose members must take vows of silence and take up chain smoking. His son goes off to follow a prophet called Holy Wayne, who heals through hugs and his daughter stays at home, but finds it difficult to remain her old, studious self. The concept is so fascinating and you find yourself imagining how you’d react in a similar situation. I was particularly surprised and pleased to find that the story builds to a satisfyingly suspenseful ending. It’s a book one can happily read whilst tucked into a cozy corner, wrapped in a blanket and drinking tea. Go for it.

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