The Leftovers

Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

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The Leftovers
368 pages; St. Martin's Press
October 14: The date of the Sudden Departure, or a "Rapture-like phenomenon." Millions of people around the world—dignitaries, celebrities ("the nerdy guy in the Verizon ads"), and regular folks—simply vanish. But Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers (St. Martin's) is less concerned with the inherent religious issues than with the lives of the suburbanites left behind. Kevin Garvey, the newly elected mayor of Mapleton, strives for a return to normalcy even as his children become unmoored—his daughter, Jill, goes from model student to troubled teen, and his college-age son runs away to follow a crackpot "healing prophet." There are other, community-based post-Rapture changes as well, including the Guilty Remnant, a cult that sends silent, chain-smoking, white-wearing Watchers to patrol neighborhoods and remind survivors that "the old world is gone." Soon Kevin's wife joins the G.R., and he can only stumble forth into a relationship with a woman who's still grieving the sudden disappearance of her husband and children. Perrotta, always a master chronicler of listless suburbia, has written an affecting, often funny story of people reeling from loss and searching for a future. The Leftovers is an apocalyptic novel for people who wouldn't be caught dead—or even Raptured—reading such a thing.
— Stephan Lee