Katherine T. (Atlanta, Georgia)
I found this novel a compelling exploration of how we go on coping (or not) in the face of unfathomable loss. Although the novel is set after millions of people disappear from Earth in the "Sudden Departure," -- a Rapture-like event that is never fully explained -- what Perotta is really writing about is how ordinary people come to terms with loss, loneliness and a world that seems meaningless. He explores many of the same themes as Jonathan Franzen in "Freedom," but with a gentler tone and (I believe) more empathy for his characters. Despite the dramatic event that sets the novel off, this is really a novel of the domestic sphere, where men, women and teens struggle to find meaning and connection in their lives.
Although I enjoyed this novel, I was not fully satisfied with a couple of the storylines where I felt the characters' motivations and actions (Laurie's, in particular) were not fully plausible. But all in all, The Leftovers is a strongly-written portrayal of highly relatable characters finding their way back to connection.
Glenn H. (Las Vegas, NV)
Not your ordinary post apocolyptic story!
I have read many post apocalyptic stories laced with barren landscapes, political decay and human crisis and happily, although unexpectedly, I can note that this is not one of those stories. In fact there is very little reference to these items at all - but enough to frame the story and set an intriguing backdrop. This is a character driven story about the everyday challenges of starting over, albeit starting over in the face of spectacularly peculiar events. It is a story about finding purpose and re-defining perspective and dealing with others as they face the same challenges, often times with startling, sad and unusual results. Not your ordinary post apocalyptic story and so much better because of it!
Suri F. (Durham, NC)
To much telling, not enough showing
It can be no coincidence that this book appears on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I think it is meant to ponder the way we've coped with our losses in the intervening time. A worthy topic.
The problem is that Perotta rarely gives us the opportunity to stand beside the characters as they explore their new world. Instead, he jump cuts from on character to another as they recollect an event that took place outside our view. When he allows us to actually witness the action, it can be powerful. He just doesn't do it often enough.
Jill S. (Chicago, IL)
Into Thin Air
What if -- whoosh! -- with no explanation, millions of us simply vanished? And what if there were no rhyme or reason to WHO disappears (John Mellencamp and J.Lo, Vladmir Putin and the Pope). What happens in the aftermath to those who are leftovers?
No one knows and Tom Perrotta doesn't even speculate. He wisely leaves it to the imagination of the reader. His focus is not on the apocalyptic event but on how one particular family zigzags forward. It's an ambitious theme: how diminished we are when something vital is subtracted from our lives. Maybe a little too ambitious. The grandness of the so-called Rapture is always lurking in the background, making the players who strut and fret their last hours on stage seem rather meaningless. But maybe that is, indeed the point. Still, at the end of the day, I wanted to know MORE about "the end of the day."