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
    May 2012, 384 pages

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All the same, though, Kevin really wanted her to be part of the parade, to demonstrate in some small way that she still recognized the claims of family and community, still loved and respected her father and would do what she could to make him happy. She understood the situation with perfect clarity—he knew she did—but for some reason couldn’t bring herself to cooperate. It hurt him, of course, but any anger he felt toward his daughter was always accompanied by an automatic apology, a private acknowledgment of everything she’d been through, and how little he’d been able to help her.

Jill was an Eyewitness, and he didn’t need a psychologist to tell him that it was something she’d struggle with for the rest of her life. She and Jen had been hanging out together on October 14th, two giggly young girls sitting side by side on a couch, eating pretzels and watching YouTube videos on a laptop. Then, in the time it takes to click a mouse, one of them is gone, and the other is screaming. And people keep disappearing on her in the months and years that follow, if not quite so dramatically. Her older brother leaves for college and never comes home. Her mother moves out of the house, takes a vow of silence. Only her father remains, a bewildered man who tries to help but never manages to say the right thing. How can he when he’s just as lost and clueless as she is?

It didn’t surprise Kevin that Jill was angry or rebellious or depressed. She had every right to be all those things and more. The only thing that surprised him was that she was still around, still sharing a house with him when she could just as easily have run off with the Barefoot People or hopped on a Greyhound Bus to parts unknown. Lots of kids had. She looked different, of course, bald and haunted, like she wanted total strangers to understand exactly how bad she felt. But sometimes when she smiled, Kevin got the feeling that her essential self was still alive in there, still mysteriously intact in spite of everything. It was this other Jill—the one she never really got a chance to become—that he’d been hoping to find at the breakfast table this morning, not the real one he knew too well, the girl curled up on the bed after coming home too drunk or high to bother scrubbing off last night’s makeup.

He thought about phoning again as they approached Lovell Terrace, the exclusive cul-de-sac where he and his family had moved five years earlier, in an era that now seemed as distant and unreal as the Jazz Age. As much as he wanted to hear Jill’s voice, though, his own sense of decorum held him back. He just didn’t think it would look right, the mayor chatting on his cell phone in the middle of a parade. Besides, what would he say?

Hi, honey, I’m driving past our street, but I don’t see you …

*   *   *

EVEN BEFORE he lost his wife to them, Kevin had developed a grudging sense of respect for the Guilty Remnant. Two years ago, when they’d first appeared on his radar screen, he’d mistaken them for a harmless Rapture cult, a group of separatist fanatics who wanted nothing more than to be left alone to grieve and meditate in peace until the Second Coming, or whatever it was they were waiting for (he still wasn’t clear about their theology and wasn’t sure they were, either). It even made a certain kind of sense to him that heartbroken people like Rosalie Sussman would find it comforting to join their ranks, to withdraw from the world and take a vow of silence.

At the time, the G.R. seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere, a spontaneous local reaction to an unprecedented tragedy. It took him a while to realize that similar groups were forming all over the country, linking themselves into a loose national network, each affiliate following the same basic guidelines—white clothes and cigarettes and two-person surveillance teams—but governing itself without much in the way of organized oversight or outside interference.

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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