Can you imagine turning a corner, yawning or reaching down to tie your shoes and discovering that the person who was right next to you has now vanished? In the blink of an eye your husband, child, sister, neighbor, the paperboy…any or all gone without so much as a puff of smoke. This is the reality facing those left behind in Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers. The biggest obstacle faced by these lost souls: how to continue on when everything they thought of as certain is no longer so.
On October 14th millions of people around the world disappeared in an instant in what has become known as The Sudden Departure. People of every religion, race, age, sexuality just vanished without a trace. In Mapleton, 87 residents disappeared and the remaining citizens are left to wonder why some were taken and they were not. Some believe it to be the prophesized Rapture and seek to right whatever imagined wrongs caused them to be seen as less than satisfactory to God. Others become emphatic that it could not possibly be the Rapture as they are good Christians and many of those taken were far from it. Still others remain lost and unsure of what could have happened or what is supposed to happen next.
The Garveys are one such family working through the randomness and uncertainty of the world they now live in. Laurie, the matriarch, joins a group called The Guilty Remnant, a commune of people determined to make sure no one forgets what happened during The Sudden Departure. They are equally determined to live out this life by letting go of every false comfort it has to offer, from their possessions to their families to their voices, so as to be able to move on to the eternity that inevitably awaits. Tom, Laurie’s son, is unable to get back to the rigors of college and joins a cult centered around a man called Holy Wayne who believes he can absorb the pain of others. Jill, the daughter, is left hurt and angry after an old friend vanishes next to her during the departure, her mother leaves for The Guilty Remnant without a backwards glance and her brother disappears into the entourage of a zealot. Letting her grades slip, shaving her head and releasing all her inhibitions seem to be the only ways to control the environment falling apart around her. Kevin, the father and mayor of Mapleton, is left to try and help his remaining family, and his town, move on after this tragedy with as little damage as possible. As the story unfolds, all four come to see that their individual ways of coping, and the choices they have made in the shadow of tragic uncertainty, all have serious consequences they could have never imagined.
Having read and enjoyed Tom Perrotta’s Little Children, I was really excited to dive into The Leftovers. The premise is fascinating and I was anxious to see how it was tackled. The relationships between the Garveys was slightly disappointing as they all appear to be so distant and void of the typical familial love most family members have for each other. They seem to have no problem leaving each other behind and trying to move on with their own individual lives.
While the story itself is tantalizing and unfolds well, the fact that it ends with no conclusions was also a disappointment. The ending feels more like the end of a chapter than the end of the story. Overall the premise and writing were enjoyable but the lack of closure left me wishing for more.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son and pet fish. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.