Summary and book reviews of The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

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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Book Summary

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?

What if the Rapture happened and you got left behind? Or what if it wasn't the Rapture at all, but something murkier, a burst of mysterious, apparently random disappearances that shattered the world in a single moment, dividing history into Before and After, leaving no one unscathed? How would you rebuild your life in the wake of such a devastating event?

This is the question confronting the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a formerly comfortable suburban community that lost over a hundred people in the Sudden Departure. Kevin Garvey, the new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized neighbors, even as his own family falls apart. His wife, Laurie, has left him to enlist in the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence but haunt the streets of town as "living reminders" of God's judgment. His son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet by the name of Holy Wayne. Only his teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she's definitely not the sweet A student she used to be.

Through the prism of a single family, Perrotta illuminates a familiar America made strange by grief and apocalyptic anxiety. The Leftovers is a powerful and deeply moving book about people struggling to hold onto a belief in their own futures.

HEROES’ DAY

IT WAS A GOOD DAY for a parade, sunny and unseasonably warm, the sky a Sunday school cartoon of heaven. Not too long ago, people would have felt the need to make a nervous crack about weather like this—Hey, they’d say, maybe this global warming isn’t such a bad thing after all!—but these days no one bothered much about the hole in the ozone layer or the pathos of a world without polar bears. It seemed almost funny in retrospect, all that energy wasted fretting about something so remote and uncertain, an ecological disaster that might or might not come to pass somewhere way off in the distant future, long after you and your children and your children’s children had lived out your allotted time on earth and gone to wherever it was you went when it was all over.

Despite the anxiety that had dogged him all morning, Mayor Kevin Garvey found himself gripped by an unexpected mood of nostalgia as he walked down Washington Boulevard toward the high ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Washington Post

[Perrotta's] most mature, absorbing novel, one that confirms his development from a funnyman to a daring chronicler of our most profound anxieties and human desires...Leavened with humor and tinged with creepiness, this insightful novel draws us into some very dark corners of the human psyche.

Marie Claire

Ever since Little Children, Tom Perrotta has been a master chronicler of suburban ennui, but he takes things to a new level with his wry, insightful, unputdownable novel The Leftovers...Profoundly entertaining...The Leftovers brims with joy, hilarity, tenderness and hope.

Chicago Sun Times

The novel intertwines...stories at a graceful pace in prose so affable that the pages keep turning without hesitation. With Perrotta at the controls, you buy the set-up and sit back as he takes off.

Seattle Times

Perrotta combines absurd circumstance and authentic characters to wondrous effect, turning his story into a vivid exploration of what we believe, what matters most, and how, if untethered, we move on…Perrotta treats his characters with sympathy and invites the reader to do the same.

Boston Globe

In his provocative new novel Tom Perrotta dives straight into our unease…it’s a gentle, Perrotta-esque go at sci-fi, without any mangled bodies or bombed-out buildings; it’s a realistic novel built on a supernatural foundation.

O, The Oprah Magazine

Start with what the author calls a Rapture-like phenomenon, mix in some suburban angst, and poof: All other apocalyptic fiction gets blown away.

Publishers Weekly

Though all the ennui is surely the point, the end of the world isn't much fun.

Booklist

Perrotta brings to his sixth novel his gifts for satiric humor and compassion, ultimately depicting the universal feelings of people reacting to severe trauma, yet the book doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its intriguing premise.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Though the tone is more comic than tragic, it is mainly empathic, never drawing a distinction between "good" and "bad" characters, but recognizing all as merely human.

Reader Reviews

Julie Z. (Bennington, VT)

The Leftovers--great for a book group
Having read Tom Perotta's Little Children, I knew this would be another slice of suburban life. However, this is not ordinary life. It's life in the aftermath of a worldwide "disappearing", or rapture, of a large number of the worlds' population. The...   Read More

Mary B. (Vernon Hills, IL)

Hopefully not "Leftover" on the remainder shelves
I had previously read Little Children by the same author. I really enjoyed the style, structure, themes and was looking for something else by him. The concept on this one sounded great. A possible Rapture occurs in which a number of people simply ...   Read More

Janet H. (Lakeland, FL)

How would you cope?
This book was not at all what I expected...but it was much better! I love the way the author told the story of real people "coping" under extraordinary circumstances. Reading this book has made me want to read more books by Tom Perrotta. It will ...   Read More

J W. (Davis, CA)

Survivor's guilt
Tom Perrotta's use of a 'sudden departure' of a large portion of humanity is a stroke of genius. Most of us have dealt with loss, grief and tragedy, but this vehicle for an exploration of how we react to that loss and grief is very clever and ...   Read More

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