The LeftoversAdd to My Apps
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|On October 13, 2011|
The Leftovers. Amusing name for a satirical novel about the suburbs, right?
Sure. But Tom Perrotta's latest — an ambitious, clever, funny, poignant talker that has Big Fall Hit written all over it — is no postmodern riff on 3-day-old meatloaf.
No, these leftovers are people, the ones "Left Behind" by an event known as the "Sudden Departure." On Oct. 14, Perrotta writes in an obvious nod to 9/11, "people disappeared, millions of them at the same time, all over the world."
Was it the Rapture? Well, there's an inconvenient little truth: It seems to have been a "random harvest," with Muslims, Jews, atheists and homosexuals (not to mention J.Lo, Vladimir Putin, Adam Sandler and the pope) among the disappeared. Plenty of irritated super-devout Christians are still hanging around here on Earth, along with all sorts of bewildered ordinary folks.
Among them are the residents of Mapleton, a typical Perrotta bedroom community, who try to cope as the third anniversary of Oct. 14 looms.
Kevin Garvey is the everyman mayor of Mapleton, a good guy whose answer to the Sudden Departure is to remain "bizarrely upbeat."
His wife, Laurie, a former agnostic, has seen the light in the wake of the apocalypse. She has left Kevin and joined the Guilty Remnant, a fringe group whose members wear all white, maintain silence, smoke like fiends (cancer won't kill them, because the world will end first) and stalk their old neighbors and loved ones.
Their teenage daughter, Jill, has gone from A-student to would-be bad girl. Her best friend disappeared in front of her eyes, but cynical Jill, an Eyewitness, "knew how easy it was to romanticize the missing, to pretend that they were better than they really were, somehow superior to the losers who'd been left behind."
And the Garveys' son, Tom, has dropped out of college to follow a self-proclaimed Messiah named Holy Wayne, who lost his little boy on 10/14 and is now impregnating teenage girls in the belief one will deliver his "Miracle Child" to save the world. (With Tom and Laurie gone and out of touch, being "left behind" is becoming a painful metaphor in Mapleton.)
Then there's Nora Durst, known in town as the Woman Who Had Lost Everything — husband, 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, all gone in a poof. She's dating Kevin but keeps pulling back, refusing to divulge any details about That Day. (In one of the novel's typical tasty zingers, Nora learns post-Departure that her husband was cheating on her with their kids' sexy young teacher — news delivered by her ex-minister, now a local Rapture Denial gadfly obsessed with exposing corrupt morals among the disappeared.)
Perrotta brings his customary satirical "A" game to The Leftovers: shaking and stirring wit, snark, social commentary — along with a dark dash of paranoia and menace — into his cocktail mix.
But the author of Election and Little Children raises his game to a new level here. (HBO already is working with Perrotta to develop a series based on the novel.)
His characters have a surprising depth to them, and we feel their confusion, pain and suffering. We know them. We hope they can figure out a way to live — because even after a catastrophe, life goes on.
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