Nancy McKibben's Reviews > The Leftovers

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
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Recommended for: readers who like philosophical novels

The Leftovers
By Tom Perrotta

You couldn’t start with a better premise: the Rapture, or something very like it, has come and gone, stealing away a good portion of the population. Husbands have watched their wives disappear; mothers have lost their children; friends have vanished. So, what now?

Perrotta begins the novel after the disappearance has taken place, so the drama does not lie in the event, but in its effects on the survivors, the “leftovers.”
‘Something tragic occurred,’ the experts repeated over and over. ‘It was a Rapture-like phenomenon, but it doesn’t appear to have been the Rapture.'

Interestingly, some of the loudest voices making this argument belonged to Christians themselves, who couldn’t help noticing that many of the people who’d disappeared on October 14th - Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and atheists and animists and homosexuals and Eskimos and Mormons and Zoroastrians, whatever the heck they were - hadn’t accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. As far as anyone could tell, it was a random harvest, and the one thing the Rapture couldn’t be was random. The whole point was to separate the wheat from the chaff, to reward the true believers and put the rest of the world on notice. An indiscriminate Rapture was no Rapture at all.
The novel takes place three years after the event and focuses on a single representative town, Mapleton. Its mayor, Kevin, is trying to lead the town back to normalcy, although his own wife has left to join the Guilty Remnant, a cult whose members practice asceticism and silence - and perhaps something darker. Kevin’s teenage daughter is running wild, and his college-aged son is crisscrossing the country as a devotée of a shady prophet dubbed Holy Wayne.

I found the author’s treatment both realistic and imaginative - maybe not what I would have come up with, but credible. The characters are understandably confused, but engaging. The reader can enjoy second-guessing everybody: Are the characters making crazy choices? Or is it crazier to think that life can go on as before? You be the judge.


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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 15, 2014 – Finished Reading
May 13, 2014 – Shelved
May 13, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed

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