Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (3.5/5)

First published: 2011
Page count: 355

The back says: What if – whoosh, right now, with no explanation – a number of us simply vanished? Would some of us think it was the Rapture? Would some of us fall apart? Would others go on just as we did before the world turned upside down?

That’s what the confused citizens of tidy suburban Mapleton have to figure out. Kevin Garvey, the mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, even as his own family has atomized in the wake of what’s become known as the Sudden Departure: Kevin’s wife, Laurie, has left to join a homegrown cult, the Guilty Remnant; his son, Tom, is gone, too, dropped out of college to follow a shady “prophet” named Holy Wayne and join his Healing Hug Movement. Only Kevin’s teenaged daughter, Jill, is still with him, opaque and drifting since October 14th. Kevin yearns to connect with her, even as he is distracted by a new relationship with Nora Durst, the saddest woman in Mapleton, trying to cope with the disappearance of her entire family.

I say: I had been wanting to read this for a long time, so I was very excited at the beginning. We are introduced to a few key protagonists in the story, Kevin, his wife Laurie and their two children Tom and Jill, and it starts off with a bang.

Or should that be a whoosh?

The novel starts with the three year anniversary parade of the Sudden Departure and then chronicles the subsequent year or so. We are introduced to the Garvey family initially through Kevin’s eyes, which are somewhat mechanical in the beginning, causing me to put the books aside for a while thinking it was going to continue like that. Fortunately, the narrator’s focus changes, initially between the Garvey family members, sometimes within the chapters, but as the story progresses some of the other characters are added. The prose is straightforward and the strength of the novel lies in the way the characters deal with the Sudden Departure. As the synopsis says, Kevin tries to act normal, his wife joins a cult, his son follows a false prophet, and his daughter starts partying and ignoring school. Perrotta covers most angles, and later on, when we are introduced to Nora, we realise that she is not dealing with the situation that well; spending her days re-watching SpongeBob and writing down how she feels after each episode.

After I had gotten over the slow start, it was exciting following these people and witnessing their change and challenges over a rather short period of time. However, towards the end I found the novel a tad frustrating simply because I lost interest in all of the characters apart from Tom, Laurie and Meg. There were also some plot lines that felt contrived; almost as if Perrotta had taken the essence of the story as far as he could and had to introduce something to keep the reader interested.

3.5/5 because of the brilliant treatment of possible outcomes of the Rapture.

This novel has also been turned into a TV series that I’ll never wath.


  1. I really like Tom Perrotta, and I've been trying to find this in a library so I don't have to pay LOTS OF MONEY to read it (It seems to be really expensive on Amazon and stuff!) So I'll read it one day, is what I'm saying, but this definitely hasn't put me off, even if you don't necessarily care about all (most of) the characters.

    1. I hope the review doesn't put you off, cos I do think he did a great job with the Rapture and how the characters reacted - I just got bored. And after reading this I realised that I have a few of his novels on my TBR list, so I'll get to them when I can. There are none at the library, and I need to not be buying books at the moment, so I'll have to wait for a sale.

      Have you had a look at play.com? I buy used books from them for usually €4.