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 by Tom Perrotta
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2011, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2012, 384 pages

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Back there, he thought, that was the real parade, the one no one had ever seen before, hundreds of ordinary people walking in small groups, some holding signs, others wearing T-shirts bearing the image of a friend or family member who’d been taken away. He’d seen these people in the parking lot, shortly after they’d broken into their platoons, and the sight of them—the incomprehensible sum of their sadness—had left him shaken, barely able to read the names on their banners: the Orphans of October 14th, the Grieving Spouses’ Coalition, Mothers and Fathers of Departed Children, Bereft Siblings Network, Mapleton Remembers Its Friends and Neighbors, Survivors of Myrtle Avenue, Students of Shirley De Santos, We Miss Bud Phipps, and on and on. A few mainstream religious organizations were participating, too—Our Lady of Sorrows, Temple Beth-El, and St. James Presbyterian had all sent contingents—but they’d been stuck way in the back, almost an afterthought, right in front of the emergency vehicles.

*   *   *

MAPLETON CENTER was packed with well-wishers, the street strewn with flowers, many of which had been crushed by truck tires and would soon be trampled underfoot. A fair number of the spectators were high school kids, but Kevin’s daughter, Jill, and her best friend, Aimee, weren’t among them. The girls had been sleeping soundly when he left the house—as usual, they’d stayed out way too late—and Kevin didn’t have the heart to wake them, or the fortitude to deal with Aimee, who insisted on sleeping in panties and flimsy little tank tops that made it hard for him to know where to look. He’d called home twice in the past half hour, hoping the ringer would roust them, but the girls hadn’t picked up.

He and Jill had been arguing about the parade for weeks now, in the exasperated, half-serious way they conducted all the important business in their lives. He’d encouraged her to march in honor of her Departed friend, Jen, but she remained unmoved.

“Guess what, Dad? Jen doesn’t care if I march or not.”

“How do you know that?”

“She’s gone. She doesn’t give a shit about anything.”

“Maybe so,” he said. “But what if she’s still here and we just can’t see her?”

Jill seemed amused by this possibility. “That would suck. She’s probably waving her arms around all day, trying to get our attention.” Jill scanned the kitchen, as if searching for her friend. She spoke in a loud voice, suitable for addressing a half-deaf grandparent. “Jen, if you’re in here, I’m sorry I’m ignoring you. It would help if you could clear your throat or something.”

Kevin withheld his protest. Jill knew he didn’t like it when she joked about the missing, but telling her for the hundredth time wasn’t going to accomplish anything.

“Honey,” he said quietly, “the parade is for us, not for them.”

She stared at him with a look she’d recently perfected—total incomprehension softened by the slightest hint of womanly forbearance. It would have been even cuter if she still had some hair and wasn’t wearing all that eyeliner.

“Tell me something,” she said. “Why does this matter so much to you?”

If Kevin could have supplied a good answer for this question, he would’ve happily done so. But the truth was, he really didn’t know why it mattered so much, why he didn’t just give up on the parade the way he’d given up on everything else they’d fought about in the past year: the curfew, the head-shaving, the wisdom of spending so much time with Aimee, partying on school nights. Jill was seventeen; he understood that, in some irrevocable way, she’d drifted out of his orbit and would do what she wanted when she wanted, regardless of his wishes.

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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