Friday Book Club: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Book: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Release date: Out now
You can’t fail to have high hopes for The Leftovers. The text on the cover announces author, Tom Perrotta, as the ‘Steinbeck of suburbia’. The blurb on the back of the book has you hooked by the end of the first sentence – ‘What if – whoosh, right now, with no explanation – a number of us simply vanished?’
The central theme of the book is a rapture. Thousands of people around the world have suddenly vanished into thin air. The thing is, what’s happened doesn’t entirely conform to the biblical description of the rapture. Some of the missing were sinners and some of those left behind are saints. In the absence of a concrete reason for the disappearance of their loved ones, the people left behind find it hard to carry on with their ordinary lives.
The Garvey family are a group of such people. Mum Laurie, dad Kevin, son Tom and daughter Jill have all survived the rapture, but they’ve lost friends. Three years after the disappearances, Kevin has become the local mayor and is doing his best to get on with his life. But his wife has joined a cult called the Guilty Remnant and taken a vow of silence, his daughter has shaved her hair off, and his son has left home to become a follower of a man called Holy Wayne, who turns out to be a paedophile.
By page 334 of The Leftovers I had concluded that I loved this book. The way Perrotta writes about the Garvey family and their acquaintances makes you really care for the characters. And the majority of the writing is worthy of a Steinbeck comparison. But on page 335, a dread crept in as I realised that the book was going to end without offering an explanation for the rapture. Just like Perrotta’s characters, I was never going to know what happened to the missing people.
You don’t get closure at the end of this novel. But, once I’d read the last line and shaken the book to see if more chapters felt out, I realised that Perrotta isn’t in the business of explanations. I think this book is meant more as a commentary on life, loss and carrying on. And in this it succeeds. I just wish I’d known this when I started reading the book.
If you like this, try this… Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro