The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta is constructed around a high-concept premise: On October 14, in the very near future people all over the world disappear into thin air. It is an indiscriminate Rapture – those of all faiths and all levels of belief are vaporized. This kind of disaster is the ultimate act of God – the laws of physics and the natural world don’t work this way.
The story centers on one family living in a small town called Mapleton, somewhere in the eastern United States. The action fast forwards three years. Laurie, the mother has joined the Guilty Remnant, a cult who dress in white, take a vow of silence and follow and watch others in the community. Kevin, the patriarch, was petitioned by people of his town to run for mayor. He is trying to balance his duties as an elected official while helping his daughter, Jill cope with the changes in her life. Jill’s friend Aimee has been living at their house because of a bad situation at her home. Aimee has introduced Jill to a whole new group of friends, and her grades have slipped. Tom, sibling to Jill, has been working for Holy Wayne, who rose to prominence by being able to receive the feelings of loss of other people by hugging them. Now, Tom is looking after one of Holy Wayne’s young brides, a sixteen year old who is pregnant and prophesized to give birth to a “child who will heal the world.”
Perrotta is careful with his characters. All of these people are adrift – trying to make sense out of the world. Their motives are explained with a great deal of empathy. There are some who have fared better than others, though. A minister is so angry about being left behind that he starts publishing a newsletter detailing the dirty secrets of those who disappeared.
As the story moves towards the last pages, I wondered if the paths of these characters will cross again. What transpires feels very much like life. Things are not tied up neatly, and there is some cause for worry, but there is also a sense of hope.
Submitted by Anne O Tation