Book Review: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The Leftovers
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Just a sec,” I told my two-year-old. “I need to get my book.”

“What book?” he asked.

“My book,” I said, showing him the cover.

“No one is wearing those shoes,” he said.

I confirmed that the shoes were empty.

“That book is about shoes, and no one is wearing those shoes,” he concluded.

None of this really has anything to do with Tom Perrotta’s story. I just like any excuse to share my kids’ cuteness.

As far as the story goes, I can say I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t blown away. The idea was awesome: the Rapture (or Rapture-like event) and the confusion and despair of those left behind. I loved that Perrotta left ambiguous just what had happened. Throughout the book, Perrotta presents what might be an explanation—only “good” people were taken, only “bad” people were taken, people were taken whom others had wished away or whom others had forgotten about or begun taking for granted. But as soon as one of these ideas came up, evidence to the contrary appeared. In the end, what happened or the reasons it happened are irrelevant to those remaining: life goes on, and they just have to figure out for themselves what that means.

This event (at one point referred to as a “harvest,” which I find satisfyingly unsettling) opens up the chance for a variety of fresh starts, and I enjoyed reading about the ways in which so many people started over or attempted to stay the course as though nothing had happened. The result is both tragic and hopeful. I particularly enjoyed how the cultish Guilty Remnant evolved throughout the book. I probably ought not to have been surprised about the direction that took, but I was, and I’m glad that I was. I imagine it must have been a lot of fun for Perrotta to play around with all of the possibilities.

While I enjoyed the book, it never really coalesced into something phenomenal. Not that every book has to (or even could) be phenomenal, I’d just kind of hoped for something a little…I don’t know…more. It’s kind of how I’ve felt about all of Tom Perrotta’s books, now that I think about it.

I am glad it wasn’t about shoes, though.

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