Kemper's Reviews > The Leftovers

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
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May 26, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2014, modern-lit, sky-cake, apocalypse-now

Millions of people vanish in the blink of an eye leaving everyone left on Earth feeling like God just told them, “It’s not you, it’s me….”

It’s been three years since the Sudden Departure, and the mayor of Mapleton, Kevin Garvey, is trying to get the town back to a feeling of normalcy. However, Kevin’s family was profoundly impacted by the disappearances. His wife Laurie has left him to join a cult of white-clad chain smokers called the Guilty Remnant who silently stalk people while son Tom dropped out of college to follow a man called Holy Wayne who offers hugs as comfort. Kevin is left with his teenage daughter Jill and her best friend who has moved in with them to get away from the creepy stepfather she was left with when her mom went poof. The girls are blowing off class to get drunk and high at parties that seem more depressing than fun. Another key figure in Mapleton is Nora Durst whose husband and two children vanished, and she’s been made a reluctant symbol of the mass loss.

While there are no definite answers as to what exactly happened to the missing people; the implication is that most of them believe deep down that this was a religious judgment of some kind. However, while it seems to fit the template of the Christian Rapture, people of all faiths from all over the world were taken while some hard core believers were not, and those who vanished were seemingly just as flawed in their lives as those who remain. So those left behind walk around feeling like they were judged and found wanting. Even worse is that since they don’t know what the criteria was, there’s no way to know why they didn't make the cut.

The real bitch of this is because these people have realized that the biggest event in human history occurred, and they were left out of it. Now they’re supposed to…..what? Go to work? Study for a test? Join a cult? Start a softball league?

There’s an unspoken belief among them that the real story is taking place with the people who departed, and the ones left are just a minor footnote at best. That’s the creepy vibe that haunts the book and makes the idea really work. There aren’t any huge apocalyptic battles to fight or horrors to endure, just that feeling that they’ve been abandoned and not knowing how to react to it. Can any of them find a reason to go on? Is it even worth trying?

I read this after seeing the TV series on HBO which I found disturbing on a lot of levels. While the basic plot and most of the characters are the same, the show seems to be hinting that there is still something looming, that this was just the first act which makes sense since most of the book's plot was used in the first season so it needs more story to tell. That gives the show a different spin because there’s more rage and craziness while the book is more about quiet despair.
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Comments (showing 1-28 of 28) (28 new)

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Mike I am curious to read your reaction to this novel should you ever get around to it. I just do not know what to make of it!


Kristin Curious to hear your thoughts as well. I found the book to be incredibly dry and boring, which seems to be the opposite of everyone's opinion of the show (I'm hesitant to watch it).


message 3: by Mara (new)

Mara I think the post-Rapture world will probably involve some amazing parties (which, obviously, as a Member of the Tribe, I'll be attending). Added bonus: all that fire and brimstone means that pretty much every pool will be a hot tub.*

* Also, possibly hot tub time machines, but it's hard to know in advance.

I read this after seeing the TV series on HBO which I found disturbing on a lot of levels.

Sounds like good decision-making to me.


Kemper Kristin wrote: "Curious to hear your thoughts as well. I found the book to be incredibly dry and boring, which seems to be the opposite of everyone's opinion of the show (I'm hesitant to watch it)."

I didn't find it dry or boring, but I get how that could easily be someone's reaction to it if you don't find some of the underlying stuff compelling because not a lot happens on the surface here.


Kemper Mara wrote: "I think the post-Rapture world will probably involve some amazing parties (which, obviously, as a Member of the Tribe, I'll be attending)....

I'm assuming you can get me into the parties, right? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I'll be missing the cut for that one, too.


Kemper Michael wrote: "I am curious to read your reaction to this novel should you ever get around to it. I just do not know what to make of it!"

There you go. And it only took me two years to finally get around to it....


message 7: by Mara (new)

Mara Kemper wrote: "I'm assuming you can get me into the parties, right? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I'll be missing the cut for that one, too."

How do you feel about brightly colored wristbands? Because we all know that, if god has forsaken us, those little tyvek wristbands will show up sooner or later.


message 8: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Would you recommend reading the book first? Or tackling the series?


Kemper Mara wrote: "How do you feel about brightly colored wristbands? Because we..."

Whatever it takes to get me into the party with hot tub time machines.


Kemper Trudi wrote: "Would you recommend reading the book first? Or tackling the series?"

For me, I'm glad I saw the show first. While the stories aren't identical, they borrowed several elements, including the ending of the season, and I found the TV version darker and edgier. It worked better for me to see the show, then read the book to get an idea of what they started with and how they expanded it.


Kristin Kemper wrote: "Kristin wrote: "Curious to hear your thoughts as well. I found the book to be incredibly dry and boring, which seems to be the opposite of everyone's opinion of the show (I'm hesitant to watch it)...."

Maybe that is what bothered me about it, the plot is very compelling, but the characters were so banal that I couldn't get into it.


message 12: by Ɗắɳ 2.☊ (new)

Ɗắɳ  2.☊ I like the show, but I'm already worried the writer's won't have a plan where this is all going. IE last season of Lost.


Kemper Dan 2.0 wrote: "I like the show, but I'm already worried the writer's won't have a plan where this is all going. IE last season of Lost."

From what I've read, the show has no intentions of providing answers as to the things like what happened to all the people. It's going to remain about the aftermath without dwelling on the mysteries of the plot. As long as they keep providing the kind of character based stories they did in the first season, I'm OK with it.


message 14: by Ɗắɳ 2.☊ (new)

Ɗắɳ  2.☊ Kemper wrote: "From what I've read, the show has no intentions of providing answers..."

This is what I've feared. I'll probably still watch. It really does has a nice, creepy vibe to it all, but I was hoping they'd have some grand overarching plot to the whole thing.


Melki I read the book a few years ago, and haven't decided yet if I want to watch the show. From the previews I've seen, there seems to be very little resemblance between the two.


Kemper Melki wrote: "I read the book a few years ago, and haven't decided yet if I want to watch the show. From the previews I've seen, there seems to be very little resemblance between the two."

A lot of the characters and plot points were taken from the book, but they've made some changes to expand it for the TV show. The biggest shift is probably turning Kevin from the regular guy mayor trying to get everything back to normal into the angry police chief who may be going crazy or turning into some kind of prophet.


Melki Guess I'll watch it. Praise Jeebus for ON-DEMAND.


message 18: by Steve (new)

Steve I really liked the series.


message 19: by Ulio (new) - added it

Ulio Is it better to read the source material than watch the show or is the show different enough that it doesn't really matter? Good review, the show is getting lots of hype I don't want to be leftover.


message 20: by Mike (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mike I've waited 2 years for this review. Well worth it.


Kemper Ulio wrote: "Is it better to read the source material than watch the show or is the show different enough that it doesn't really matter? Good review, the show is getting lots of hype I don't want to be leftover."

Check out comment #10.


Kemper Michael wrote: "I've waited 2 years for this review. Well worth it."

That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me on here. Thanks!


message 23: by Leah (new)

Leah Polcar Wonderful review, as always.


Kemper Leah wrote: "Wonderful review, as always."

Thanks!


James Thane Nice review. I really liked the book too and intend to watch the series. Just haven't gotten around to it yet.


message 26: by Mahvish (new)

Mahvish your reviews are the best.


message 27: by Chad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chad Malkamaki Nailed exactly how I felt about the book and the TV series. I also picked this up after watching the show.


message 28: by Ann (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ann Cell Thanks for helping me decide to read the book. I actually prefer to read books after watching a favorite movie or show, since the film version can never live up. I adore the show - it's desperate nature rings true with me, and I'm pleased to know I've plenty of that to look forward to in the book. I'm a big fan of quiet despair.


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