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The Leftovers

by Tom Perrotta

Macmillan Audio | 2011 |Running time: 10 hours | 8 CDs | $39.99

Reviewed by Michael Carey

Imagine the rapture has just occurred. You left your family in one room or looked away from your friend to watch a video (or read a review) on the computer screen only to find that when you look back they are gone. You are now one of the Leftovers. What do you do? How do you go forward?

Tom Perrotta’s novel, The Leftovers, explores a world where this happens. With no rhyme or reason to explain how or why it happened or who was chosen and why, the city of Mapleton tries to deal with the tragedy. The Garvey family, Kevin, Laurie, Jill, and Tom, although all left behind, struggle independently to find their path and make sense of the world. The paths taken by the family members and other town citizens are unique to the characters and quite diverse, ranging from cults to becoming the mayor as a member of the “Hopeful Party”.

The Leftovers poses a serious question in an age with increasing amounts of rapture paranoia. Through the story, he seems to subtly ask, “How would you handle being left behind?” And you might ask yourself, would I be the angry reverend who cries, “I gave everything to Him?” Or would I take a vow to silently and dutifully remind the world that it has changed and a return to normalcy is unacceptable? Would I try to find hope in exercise, connecting with others, or even in the possibility of making the softball league coed?

Perrotta displays the strength and weakness of family bonds and friendship, and the significance of personal choice, as the characters all try to find happiness, or simply hide from the pain of being left behind. The journeys each character takes includes hope, some level of despair, confusion, and choice, taking them to a new (although not necessarily ideal) place they all seem to ultimately accept for themselves.

Even though there is scattered humor and moments of suspense, I found the real merit of The Leftovers in the emotions and struggles the characters face. The image created of the post-apocalyptic world is realistic and creative, allowing the reader to dive in for the emotional, and often heartbreaking, ride.

And the great character actor, Dennis Boutsikaris, shows his skill once again in reading this novel, complementing the narrative in all but his high female voice (it’s a tough one for most readers). I enjoyed The Leftovers in the overall experience it delivers, but I especially appreciated the unique, imaginative, and human perspectives that Perrotta created for our listening/reading pleasure.

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