Thomas Litchford's Reviews > The Leftovers

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
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's review
May 13, 2011

really liked it

Tom Perrotta took a chance with The Leftovers (which I received through the Goodreads Firstreads program). The setting and characters are familiar (suburbia and suburbanites), but he adds a major dose of the supernatural to the mix: a Rapture-like event known as the Sudden Departure. (I'm not giving anything away here; this is all on the book jacket and in the prologue.)

The Leftovers, as the title implies, is about those who are left behind, to borrow a phrase from that other book about the Rapture. But here's the catch, many of the people whom one would expect to be included in the disappearance (i.e. practicing Christians) were among the leftovers, and many people who were not believers at all, or who led 'immoral' lives, were among the departed.

So how do normal people deal with an event of this magnitude? Many of them join cults, apparently. And many of them begin to ignore the old rules.

And this was my one problem with the book: the characters seemed too normal. It took me a long time to really identify with them.

Having said that, I did begin to identify with them and care about them, and I was surprised by how everything wrapped up. Perrotta also succeeds in introducing a certain amount of dread in the middle section of the book, which keeps you reading happily.

All in all, the story flows effortlessly, and it's enjoyable reading. I only wish Perrotta had invested more imagination in his characters and a little less in the speculative aspects of the story. In the end, this is a story about people rebuilding their lives after a devastating loss, and it's about finding something to live for when everything you believe turns out to be wrong.

Speculative fiction, done correctly, is just a different way of looking at the world we live in today, and that's the best way to read this book. We're caught in a culture divided in two: one group smugly believes they have access to Absolute Truth, and the other group lives under the burden of nihilism. Maybe the way to reconcile these two camps is to agree that there is something way bigger than us out there, something we'll never understand, but to which we owe a great measure of respect, even awe.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Lauri (new) - added it

Lauri Seems like you liked it. Worth reading?

Thomas Litchford I have a review in the works. There was a bit of a slowdown in the middle, but, taken as a whole, it was a really good book. I was surprised he pulled it off as well as he did, given the premise.

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