Literature: Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers

Title: The Leftovers // Author: Tom Perrotta // Publisher: St. Martin’s Press // September 2011 // 368 p.

Be on the lookout this month for Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers, a sort of satirical novel that explores the startling question: What if millions of us disappeared in a split second? One moment, we’re there jogging on a treadmill at the gym. The next, we’re gone. And our families and friends are left behind to sift through the aftermath of our mass exodus. In The Leftovers, the residents of Mapleton are living through such a time, and Perrotta captures their story with a great deal of humor and wit.

This is a good book for those who enjoy religious humor—Perrotta makes light of a serious situation without being icky or disrespectful. Even though some of Perrotta’s characters believe that they’re living through the Rapture, most are instead calling it the Sudden Departure because no one knows exactly why so many people disappeared on October 14. Perrotta gives us a glimpse of the lives of the leftovers three years on, at a transition time when widowed spouses are dating again, people are joining cults to deal with global uncertainty, and teenagers are rebelling from their parents, as usual.

Perrotta does a great job creating and maintaining suspense through this novel. He leaves his readers in a cloud of unknowing, just as Mapleton residents were left by their friends, families, and neighbors after the Sudden Departure. In doing so, he puts us in a position to experience this strange life along with them, “as if the whole world had paused to take a deep breath and steel itself for whatever was going to happen next.”

To read my full review of The Leftovers on the Contemporary Literature website, click here.


One response to “Literature: Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers

  1. Hi T,
    Having just been recommended the ‘100 books to read before you die’ list on the BBC website (which was terrible unfortunately) I thought of you and wondered if you would post a ‘Top 10 Books to read before you die’ on your blog?

    Hope all is well with you,


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