Excerpt from The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Leftovers

A Novel

by Tom Perrotta

The Leftovers
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2011, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2012, 384 pages

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Print Excerpt


“The woman had kids. They don’t need to be reading about who she slept with in college.”

“But it’s the truth. We can’t hide from the truth.”

Kevin knew it was useless to argue. By all accounts, Matt Jamison used to be a decent guy, but he’d lost his bearings. Like a lot of devout Christians, he’d been deeply traumatized by the Sudden Departure, tormented by the fear that Judgment Day had come and gone, and he’d been found lacking. While some people in his position had responded with redoubled piety, the Reverend had moved in the opposite direction, taking up the cause of Rapture Denial with a vengeance, dedicating his life to proving that the people who’d slipped their earthly chains on October 14th were neither good Christians nor even especially virtuous individuals. In the process, he’d become a dogged investigative journalist and a complete pain in the ass.

“All right,” Kevin muttered, folding the newsletter and jamming it into his back pocket. “I’ll give it a look.”

*   *   *

THEY STARTED moving at a few minutes after eleven. A police motorcade led the way, followed by a small armada of floats representing a variety of civic and commercial organizations, mostly old standbys like the Greater Mapleton Chamber of Commerce, the local chapter of D.A.R.E., and the Senior Citizens’ Club. A couple featured live demonstrations: Students from the Alice Herlihy Institute of Dance performed a cautious jitterbug on a makeshift stage while a chorus line of karate kids from the Devlin Brothers School of Martial Arts threw flurries of punches and kicks at the air, grunting in ferocious unison. To a casual observer it would have all seemed familiar, not much different from any other parade that had crawled through town in the last fifty years. Only the final vehicle in the sequence would have given pause, a flatbed truck draped in black bunting, not a soul on board, its emptiness stark and self-explanatory.

As mayor, Kevin got to ride in one of two honorary convertibles that trailed the memorial float, a little Mazda driven by Pete Thorne, his friend and former neighbor. They were in second position, ten yards behind a Fiat Spider carrying the Grand Marshall, a pretty but fragile-looking woman named Nora Durst who’d lost her entire family on October 14th—husband and two young kids—in what was widely considered to be the worst tragedy in all of Mapleton. Nora had reportedly suffered a minor panic attack earlier in the day, claiming she felt dizzy and nauseous and needed to go home, but she’d gotten through the crisis with the help of her sister and a volunteer grief counselor on hand in the event of just such an emergency. She seemed fine now, sitting almost regally in the backseat of the Spider, turning from side to side and wanly raising her hand to acknowledge sporadic bursts of applause from spectators who’d assembled along the route.

“Not a bad turnout!” Kevin remarked in a loud voice. “I didn’t expect this many people!”

“What?” Pete bellowed over his shoulder.

“Forget it!” Kevin shouted back, realizing it was hopeless to try to make himself heard over the band. The horn section was plastered to his bumper, playing an exuberant version of “Hawaii Five-O” that had gone on for so long he was beginning to wonder if it was the only song they knew. Impatient with the funereal pace, the musicians kept surging forward, briefly overtaking his car, and then falling abruptly back, no doubt wreaking havoc on the solemn procession bringing up the rear. Kevin twisted in his seat, trying to see past the musicians to the marchers behind them, but his view was blocked by a thicket of maroon uniforms, serious young faces with inflated cheeks, and brass instruments flashing molten gold in the sunlight.

Excerpted from The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Copyright © 2011 by Tom Perrotta. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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