Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, September 2011
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Where I Got It: ARC courtesy of the publisher
My Rating: 4.5 stars
One of my favorite authors, Tom Perrotta, is back with a new novel. Once again, he offers spot-on observations of life in suburbia. What differs this time around is that the suburbanites in this book are the “leftovers”—those left behind by a Rapture-like event called the Sudden Departure.
The Sudden Departure—which disappeared millions around the world—leaves those left behind feeling bewildered, lost, angry, confused and searching for answers. The diverse responses of the “leftovers” are illustrated by the residents of the small town of Mapleton.
For Laurie Garvey, the confusion and emotions of the Sudden Departure prompt her to join the Guilty Remnant (G.R.)—a cult-like group whose members take vows of silence, live communally, smoke continuously and stalk members of the local community.
Laurie’s decision to leave home and join the G.R. leaves her husband Kevin and her teenage daughter Jill at loose ends. Kevin—who feels that the only sane reaction to the Sudden Departure is to continue living as normally as possible—finds meaning and solace in his role as Mapleton’s mayor. Jill—cast adrift in the confusing world of high school and young womanhood without the guiding hand of her mother—seeks answers by running with the fast crowd.
Although he’d already left for college before the Sudden Departure, Tom Garvey finds himself drifting and searching for answers until he falls in with a charismatic preacher named Holy Wayne. However, recent scandals swirling around Wayne are causing Tom to question his purpose and direction in life.
In addition to chronicling the lives of the Garvey family, we’re also introduced to Nora Durst—a Mapleton resident who lost her husband and children in the Sudden Departure and faces an odd sort of widowhood. Viewed as a tragic hero, Nora clings to the past while trying valiantly to figure out how to continue living a meaningful life.
As the events of the book unfold, Perrotta offers up a satisfying mix of humor, sadness and detail that makes his characters come alive. Although my initial thrill was in finding out how Perrotta would explore a Rapture-like event, I quickly got absorbed in the lives of the characters and their emotional journeys. Although the Sudden Departure is a great hook, The Leftovers is still grounded in the realities of suburban life that Perrotta explored so brilliantly in his books Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher.
I loved this book! Whenever I was reading, everything disappeared and I was completely inside the story. What I love most about Perrotta’s writing is that he fills his stories with little details that make everything feel so authentic and real. His characters feel like people who live in my little section of suburbia. In other words, his writing rings true. So despite a premise that seems fantastical and “out there,” The Leftovers ends up feeling grounded and relevant to our lives right now. I encourage you to check it out. It was one of the most interesting and involving books I’ve read this year.
FYI: I’m giving away a print version and an audiobook version. Enter here!