Abbey's Reviews > The Leftovers

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
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Aug 04, 2012

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Read in August, 2012

What a GREAT premise! What a waste of a great premise. I _adored_ one of the author's other works, "Election," so I had such high hopes for this book.

This could have been a touching, sweet, tense, horrific, exciting exploration of what happens after an inexplicable event affects millions of people all at once, but it turned into a pedestrian, plodding story about how people get over trauma.

The details of the day when millions disappeared off the face of the earth, the panic that followed, the investigations that grasped at any rational explanation, the reactions from grief to guilt to gleeful looting - all this action is only implied or referred to obliquely in the narrative.

Perrotta throws away that wonderful premise - a rapture-like event that isn't the rapture because a lot of the "wrong" people disappear and a lot of the "right" people don't. He focuses instead on people, mostly unlikeable people, living with the consequences of their choices.

I thought this book would be a scary-fun survival story, but no. We got to watch them clean up after the storm. We got to listen in as the survivors do the equivalent of talking to the Allstate guy about the deductible on the roof repairs.

Now that might be a little unfair. Some parts of it were absurdly hilarious. There's a minister who goes around knocking the halos off the memory of those who disappeared so he can feel better about "not making the cut." In another place, there's a cult called the Guilty Remnant who redefine the concept of self-flagellation by requiring their members to smoke. I guffawed out loud.

So it's not to say that this book is a complete waste. It's not. But it's a waste of a fantastic premise! Have I said that before? It's a WASTE of a fantastic PREMISE!

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Emily The show on HBO adapted from this book does a better job fulfilling the premise, I think.

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