Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

What if—whoosh, right now, with no explanation—a number of us simply vanished? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down?
That’s what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out. Because nothing has been the same since it happened—not marriages, not friendships, not even the relationships between parents and children.

Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized community. Kevin’s own family has fallen apart in the wake of the disaster: his wife, Laurie, has left to join the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence; his son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet named 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 relationship with Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family on October 14th and is still reeling from the tragedy, even as she struggles to move beyond it and make a new start.

With heart, intelligence and a rare ability to illuminate the struggles inherent in ordinary lives, Tom Perrotta has written a startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss.

I received an ARC from the publisher.
This is one incredible book. If you’ve not preordered your copy, I seriously urge to do so.

The plot is so bizarre and yet remains believable because it deals with its very human aftermath, the way that people deal with being left behind. While in the case of this set of characters it’s because of an “act of God”, their reactions are as familiar to us any of us who’s ever lost a loved one in any way. The way the book is structured, with many different viewpoints is complex and yet wholly satisfying, as we learn about situations between a couple, for example, from both sides. The plot is fast-paced, although it is literary fiction, so don’t expect action stunts. I never found myself anywhere near bored.

The characters themselves are fabulous. Well developed and carrying their own emotional baggage, they overspill from the pages. Not all of them are lovable at all times, as people are not in real life, but we do get to understand them, and even cheer for them when they accomplish something unexpected. They make the story what it is, not the plot itself.

I can’t recommend it highly enough, this is one book to which you have to treat yourself in the fall.

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