The Leftovers by Tom Perotta
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan
Review copy provided by the publicist
The citizens of Mapleton are left stunned after losing many of their family members and friends in the event which has come to be called the Sudden Departure. Mapleton’s mayor, Kevin Garvey, wants things to go back to normal in the community, even though his home life is falling apart at the seams. His wife, Laurie, has left to join the Guilty Remnant, a cult that has sprung up in the wake of the Rapture, and his son, Tom, has left the home as well, and after dropping out of college, he now travels the country following a prophet. Kevin’s daughter, Jill, is still home but is no longer the perfect angel Kevin is used to. Kevin is also attending to the needs of Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family that day, and someone Kevin has decided he might want to pursue a relationship with.
I had seriously high expectations for The Leftovers. I’m not sure why, since I’ve never read a Perotta novel before, but something about this book made me think I would absolutely love it. Maybe I fell victim to all the buzz? Who knows. In any case, I did like this novel. But I didn’t love it. So that was a bit of a disappointment.
The thing is that The Leftovers is so deeply melancholy that I had trouble actually enjoying the experience of reading it. It was just so … depressing. Nothing really positive happens at any point throughout the book. I mean, the premise of the novel doesn’t exactly encourage puppies and rainbows, but still. I was left with sad feelings every time I stepped away from the book.
What I did love about the novel were the characters. LOVE. I definitely get that Tom Perotta is a genius at crafting interesting, complicated, flawed characters. I saw pieces of myself in almost every single one of these characters, and I think that’s a huge talent that Perotta has. He managed to make these sad, broken, left behind (literally) people into characters I easily fell in love with. I cheered them on and prayed that something good would come to them. I would have stopped reading the book, in fact, had the characters not been so compelling.
I was lucky enough to experience The Leftovers on audio, and while I’m not sure it would be the best choice for everyone, it was the right choice for me. The reason I say it might not be for everyone is that Perotta’s writing is pretty incredible and some people might prefer to experience it with their eyes rather than their ears. For me personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the audio production, which was narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris, and would highly recommend it.
While The Leftovers didn’t quite live up to my insanely high expectations, I still enjoyed it and would recommend you read it yourself. The premise itself is enough to engage almost any reader, and the characters and writing are fantastic as well.