03 August 2015

The Leftovers by Tom Perotta

Tom Perotta's THE LEFTOVERS came out back in 2011, and I put it on my to-read list after reading a review, probably in Entertainment WeeklyIt took me four years to get around to reading it.

I kind of wish I had waited a little longer.

I imagine with the HBO series based on the book, people are at least familiar with the premise of THE LEFTOVERS: a Rapture-like event (which got termed the Sudden Departure since no one could agree if it was the Rapture or not) caused a portion of the world's population to vanish. The selection seemed to be random: the worthy and the wicked were taken, without any discernible pattern.

THE LEFTOVERS, as the name implies, follows the lives of those who remained, as they try to live in their new world. The novel followed the sometimes-interweaving stories of several characters, but tended to focus on Kevin Garvey, a small-town mayor whose wife left to join a cult, whose son (ironically) also joined a cult, though a different one, and whose daughter has lost her direction in life.

I don't know. I didn't really like it.

The characters were all real, but in a sort of unlikeable way. Because the narration was omniscient, it was harder to find heroes and villains, or even to sustain empathy for characters when they would behave sympathetically one moment and egregiously the next.

I don't know.

I liked the premise. It was absolutely brilliant. And Perotta's prose was lean and mean and did its job. I just didn't connect with the story.

It turns out Perotta wrote the novel ELECTION, upon which the film—one of my least favorite films from my teenage years—was based. I didn't know that going in, but it makes sense: both paint a more cynical portrait of humanity than I enjoy reading.

It's cool, though. It's good to read widely and I don't regret reading THE LEFTOVERS.