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The Leftovers [Hardcover]

Tom Perrotta
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, Aug. 30 2011 --  
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Book Description

Aug. 30 2011

A startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss from the New York Times bestselling author of The Abstinence Teacher and Little Children.

What if the Rapture happened and you got left behind? Or what if it wasn't the Rapture at all, but something murkier, a burst of mysterious, apparently random disappearances that shattered the world in a single moment, dividing history into Before and After, leaving no one unscathed? How would you rebuild your life in the wake of such a devastating event?

This is the question confronting the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a formerly comfortable suburban community that lost over a hundred people in the Sudden Departure. Kevin Garvey, the new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized neighbours, even as his own family falls apart. His wife, Laurie, has left him to enlist in the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence but haunt the streets of town as "living reminders" of God's judgment. His son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet by the name of Holy Wayne. Only Kevin's teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she's definitely not the sweet "A" student she used to be. Kevin wants to help her, but he's distracted by his growing attraction to Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family in the tragedy, and is still reeling three years later, groping for a way to face the remainder of her life.

Through the prism of a single family, Perrotta illuminates a familiar America made strange by grief and apocalyptic anxiety. The Leftovers is a powerful and deeply moving book about people struggling to hold on to a belief in their own futures.


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Review

A New York Times Notable Book

“Striking. . . . The Leftovers is, simply put, the best Twilight Zone episode you never saw. . . . Beautifully modulated narration. . . . His lines have a calm and unshowy clarity.”
Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review

“Tom Perrotta is incapable of writing a bad book; I’ve loved all his books so far. . . . Trust Perrotta to find very trenchant things to say about our cultural condition by means of this inventive premise. . . . Perrotta is one of our most underrated writers, and deserves the widest possible audience.”
—The Huffington Post

“His most ambitious book.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Praise for Tom Perrotta:
"He's the Steinbeck of suburbia."
TIME

"His brand of bracing, suburban fiction, domestic realism laced with biting satire, is a delight, with depths at which film can only hint. Writing with clear, subtle prose and winning emotional directness, Perrotta has been chronicling the American heart and soul, its follies and foibles, for almost a decade, without misstep."
The Globe and Mail

“An American Chekhov whose characters, even at their most ridiculous, seem blessed and ennobled by a luminous human aura.”
—The New York Times Book Review
 
“That rare combination: a satirist with heart.”
—The Seattle Times

About the Author

TOM PERROTTA is the author of six works of fiction, including The Wishbones, Election and Joe College. His novels Election and Little Children were made into acclaimed and award-winning movies. He lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What's the Big Idea Nov. 21 2011
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
As I read The Leftovers, I kept envisioning how my little piece of suburbia would be impacted if a random number of us just vanished. Would the community and families be brought closer together or would the event create even more social schisms? Author Perrotta terms the disappearances "the Sudden Departure" while a few of his characters call it the Rapture. To his credit, the book explores religion without it dominating the entire exercise.

Instead we view reactions and the action primarily through the Garvey family. They are believable enough but the angst we witness is surprisingly bland. In fact, dysfunctional life continues with this one inexplicable event replacing the other things that would otherwise occupy people or cause them to complain, such as, terrorism, the economy, global warming. As the novel progresses, we witness the suburbanites slide back into Cheever territory with affairs, lust, idleness, and a McDonald's-like comforting routine. The book evoked memories of The Ice Storm and American Beauty.

Most interesting to me were the new organizations that boomed following the Sudden Departure. There are the Barefoot People, the Healing Hug Movement, and the much more disturbing Guilty Remnant. These constructs are plausible as people search for meaning. Without a doubt the book is thought-provoking and it's first half engrossing. However, the remainder of the book failed to engage with the author seeming to lose his big idea.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Surprise. I liked it! Jan. 5 2013
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. The description didn't really get me excited but I chose to read it because of the reviews. It was a "New York Times" Notable Book, "Oprah Magazine" Favourite Book of the Year and one of NPR's Top Ten Novels of 2011. I was not disappointed. It was thought provoking and captured me from the first few pages. I read this book within 24 hours - a far cry from the three weeks it took me to finish the last book I picked up.

The book follows several central characters (most from an immediate family) through their journey after "The Rapture" - or was it something else? Time is divided into Before and After and we watch as some characters rebuild their lives while others just simply give up. All struggle with what the apocalyptic event means. Very little time is spent on the "How" or "Why" this event occurred. Instead, the writer focuses his energy on the "What happens now?" to the ones left behind.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Perrota's best Aug. 20 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A few years ago, I read Perrota's "Little Children" and "Abstinence Teacher" and I enjoyed them very much. They read like a movie. Besides, all characters seem immensely believable - painfully similar to people around us. All in all, plots, images and characters made for excellent novels.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said about "The Leftovers". The premise of this book - the rapture - is a difficult one. This time, we are supposed to imagine characters living in this science fiction scenario and reacting to the rapture. For me, it was difficult to empathize, believe or like the characters.

Still, if I didn't fall in love with this novel, I still recognize Perrota's talents as a good writer. In short, a three star novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aftermath of a great disappearance. Sept. 10 2011
By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Tom Perrotta's novel, "The Leftovers", is the story of a small town in New England, populated, at present, by those not chosen to vanish in a Rapture-like mass disappearance. The "Disappearance", as it was called world-round, sort of took people like a plague or a flu epidemic might - people here and there, and in some cases, almost full families. Those people "left over" cope with their continued existence on this earth in different ways. Some were disappointed they weren't taken - why weren't they "chosen"? - but most were glad to be left alive, even if they missed friends and relatives taken. Some can't cope with the guilt of being left while a sister, daughter, husband, etc were taken instead.

Perrotta opens his novel three years or so after the disappearance. Life has continued but most people are changed as they look around themselves and still miss their loved ones. Change has come by necessity to the small town of Mapleton. Kevin Garvey, a self-made millionaire has lost his wife, not to the Disappearance, but to her joining a cult-like group, the "Guilty Remnant" - a group dedicated to keeping the Disappearance in people's memory. His children have also drifted off to their own lives. But, besides the Garvey family, Perrotta introduces other characters in other situations, all whose lives intersect in some way. It's an interesting book, but strangely lacking in energy. The characters move with slowness as they try to reclaim their lives, or to make new ones. And that slowness is reflected in the writing style. I think Perrotta wrote this way on purpose and it is effective in a strange way. Somehow the writing matches the lives of the characters. "The Leftovers" is a good book that perhaps makes readers think about life after a tragedy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sober and Calm Approach to a Fascinating Topic Jan. 8 2012
By Flippy TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The Rapture was supposed to happen last year on May 21, 2011. As far as anyone knows, it didn't and for the most part, the human race is carrying on as usual.

In Tom Perrotta's latest book, The Leftover 'the Sudden Disappearance' or 'The Rapture' has occurred. In fact, it happened three years ago and not everyone left behind has remotely recovered.

To begin, the Prologue provides a nice segue into this excellent novel about the 'what if' should a certain Biblical event occur. We are first introduced to Laurie Garvey who decides to leave her family for the Guilty Remnant (G.R.), a cult that claims it isn't a cult. They all wear white, smoke cigarettes and act as Watchers, people whose very presence is supposed to remind those going about their lives that the end is still coming and not to forget what happened on October 14th.

In Laurie's wake is her ex-husband Kevin, self-made millionaire and present mayor of Mapleton, a sleepy New England town still reeling from the Rapture. There's also Jill and Tom, Kevin and Laurie's two kids. Jill has become a bit of a slacker at school, hanging out with Aimee, the pretty girl-gone bad while Tom is busy traveling across America, escorting Christine, one of the six brides of a pseudo-Messiah (a man who has the interesting talent of taking people's pain away by hugging them) that needs to get to Boston, to hide out and have her Messiah's baby.

We are also introduced to Nora, a woman who lost her entire family in the Sudden Disappearance. Attractive, lost and the tragic celebrity of Mapleton.

The book is pure-Perrotta.
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