Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Leftovers

Imagine you are going about your day when suddenly people around you disappear. They are just gone. Not everyone, but random people. Maybe it's the cashier as you check out at the grocery store--poof--and you are left with half your groceries still on the conveyer belt. Or maybe you are on a crowded bus when--snap--now there's room for everyone to have a seat. Or, just maybe, you are home, alone. But when you try to contact a friend, several friends, no one answers.

This is the premise of Tom Perrota's The Leftovers. In a Rapture-like phenomenon, people disappear on October 14, but with no rhyme or reason--they aren't all "believers" or "heroes," but they aren't all bad either. Those who are left have to figure out how to carry on, how to make meaning from this senseless event (which is eventually named the Sudden Departure). The book follows several "Leftovers" in this post-tragedy world.

Nora Durst lost her husband and her two small children. She struggles with the grief of both losing her family and not knowing where they are--she considers the woman who lost her family in a car accident "lucky" for having bodies to bury. The Garveys, on the other hand, remain unscathed--at the surface. While all four of them remain, none of them is the same. Kevin becomes mayor of their small town, hoping his undying optimism helps heal the community. His wife, Laurie, holds it together for a while, but eventually leaves her family to join the cultish Guilty Remnant, taking a vow of silence in honor of the missing. Their son, Tom, tries to continue with his college studies, but drops out to become a follower of Holy Wayne, a "prophet" of the times. Their daughter, Jill, mourns the loss of her friend Jen by befriending Aimee, shaving her head, and failing her classes.

The book clips along at a fast pace--I finished it in a few days after several marathon reading sessions. I liked how it skipped around, telling the story from five different characters' perspectives. The term "leftover" takes on new meanings--the people are leftovers, they have more leftover dinner because there are less people eating, or no leftover dinner because they stop making fancy meals, there are leftover memories of those who are gone. The final chapter brings everyone's storylines to a head and brings each one a sort of closure.

The novel is being made into either a TV movie or show (I can't find any details other than HBO Pilot, so maybe it's not been picked up yet), currently in pre-production. Read the book, then check it out.

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