The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta if your whole family disappeared, and you were the only one left. Or maybe it was your best friend who was suddenly gone, or that kid you went to elementary school with, or your mailman. It might have been The Rapture that took them, but there’s no real way to know. They’re gone, and you’re still here. You’re one of the leftovers.

On October 14th, thousands of people suddenly disappeared from earth, leaving their friends, families, and worldly goods behind.  The Sudden Departure, as it came to be known, changed the shape of things across the world – religious groups were sparked, new philosophies and movements ran rampant, and the “survivors” had to learn to cope with losing their loved ones, and also with not being chosen themselves.

Tom Perrotta’s most recent book (named one of the best books of 2011 by NPR, the New York Times, and Kirkus, among others) takes you inside the lives and minds of the Garvey family and portrays the aftermath of the Sudden Departure on each family member. Although the events of October 14th didn’t directly affect the Garveys (parents Laurie and Kevin and their two teenage children, Jill and Tom, are all survivors,) they will never be the same. Laurie joins a cult of silent “watchers,” who are tasked with (silently) reminding those around them of what has happened. Kevin, now effectively a single parent, does his best to care for Jill and her friend Aimee (whose mother is among the missing.) While searching for love and companionship to help ease his pain, Kevin finds Nora, who has lost a husband and two young children – her entire family.

And then there are the kids.  Jill is an “Eyewitness” — she was there when her friend Jen disappeared — and has filled in her sadness with drugs and alcohol and sex. Tim is absent from the rest of the family after dropping out of college and not returning home, but has joined another sort of cult and traveled the country spreading their word. Now unsure about the choices he has made, Tim begins to question what he should do next.

I’ve read some criticism about The Leftovers lacking a real ending, but the way Perrotta closed the book left me feeling hopeful and excited for each character. He doesn’t complete the individual story lines, but shows the direction their new lives are heading.

The only other Perrotta book I’ve read is Little Children , which I also really enjoyed. Next I’ll pick up either Election  or The Abstinence Teacher – any recommendations on which is the better?

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.


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