The Leftovers

By Tom Perrotta
Publisher:St. Martin's Press, (8/30/2011)

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.60 out of 5 (5 Clubie's ratings)

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What if—whoosh, right now, with no explanation—a number of us simply vanished?  Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down?

That’s what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out. Because nothing has been the same since it happened—not marriages, not friendships, not even the relationships between parents and children. 

Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized community. Kevin’s own family has fallen apart in the wake of the disaster: his wife, Laurie, has left to join the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence; his son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet named Holy Wayne.  Only Kevin’s teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she’s definitely not the sweet “A” student she used to be.  Kevin wants to help her, but he’s distracted by his growing relationship with Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family on October 14th and is still reeling from the tragedy, even as she struggles to move beyond it and make a new start.

With heart, intelligence and a rare ability to illuminate the struggles inherent in ordinary lives, Tom Perrotta has written a startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss.

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Book Junky's thoughts on "The Leftovers"
updated on:1/30/2012

I… liked it. I pause because, it's kind of a book where when it ends you ask, "What the h#ll just hit me?" COMPLETELY original story line. I was truly amazed at where all the characters went (the ones who "survived" the sudden departure that is). The concept overall was just intriguing. The writing was great. The ending - not at all what I was expecting, but not an ending that leaves you mad at the book and wanting to throw it against the wall by any means. I just was not expecting that ending. (I love that when writers can just surprise you like that.)  Early on I kept having dreams about what was going on in the book, so it is definitely a book that gets into your psyche. It dragged on a bit in the middle, but no worries there…. it's worth the read. It's just one of those books that make you think. Thereby, it is GRAT for book clubs. Lots to discuss. 


Nick's thoughts on "The Leftovers"
updated on:11/2/2011

One thing I found interesting while reading "The Leftovers" is that almost anytime I would explain the premise to someone else, I would get a wrinkled face response, as if to say "Ewww. You're reading what?" I would then have to explain that it is not some kind of born-again Christian book lecturing we the damned, and that it centers around a "Rapture-like" event, not necessarily the Rapture as described by televangelists and wannabe prophets. Certainly the concept of the Rapture brings out strong feelings in people, one way or the other. I thought this novel did an excellent job of using the event as a thematic pillar without getting too caught up in the morality or the science of it all. This story is about how people struggle with their own identities, loss, and trying to re-establish something like real life again in the aftermath of a truly shattering shared experience. It was interesting to see how people tried coping and how relationships were made and unmade. It made me wonder what the aftermath would be like, and I felt like the author really hit a few nails right on the head. I particularly liked the way that people would delve into the lives of those who were taken, picking at their apparent sins and bad habits and wondering "why them and not me?" It's a quietly engaging book that doesn't beat you over the head, but instead presents very real characters dealing with very unreal circumstances. 


Ceci's thoughts on "The Leftovers"
updated on:10/31/2011

Like the title, the whole story is written with a curious, but somehow totally appropriate, blend of humor and tragedy. One example: a list of so-called celebrities who are among the departed, concluding with a statement from the Food Network that, "the small world of superstar chefs had been disproportionately hard hit." Another: "a chorus line of karate kids," participants in the first annual Departed Heroes' Day of Remembrance and Reflection. Am I the only reader to picture a row of miniature Ralph Macchios? However, it is the tragedy that stays with me after finishing the book. To say this is a book about grief is stating the obvious, but the overall mood is still matter of fact, the tone straightforward and undemanding. Is this to underscore that all grief is unique? Or, maybe to avoid any hint of judgment? Each character represents a particular response to loss, and while other characters judge and react to that response, I had no inclination to judge any of them. Food for thought. And there is plenty more of that in this book, making it an excellent choice for book club.

Very Unleashable

Steph's thoughts on "The Leftovers"
updated on:10/31/2011

As other reviewers have stated, there is a lot to discuss here, starting with the basic premise.  Millions of people around the world of all faiths, ages, and backgrounds have suddenly disappeared.  Tom Perotta’s The Leftovers, explores how a few of those that were not taken in what is deemed the “sudden departure” are dealing with this unprecedented event.  Perotta’s ordinary treatment of such an extraordinary occurrence is one of the things I liked best about this book.  It really lets you get to know the characters, ranging from a woman whose entire family disappeared to the town mayor, whose entire family was spared, yet still ended up separated by the event.  While there’s no way of knowing how you would truly react in such circumstances, the author’s “life goes on” exploration really allowed me to insert myself in this town of Mapleton we are introduced to three years after the event.  The most fascinating character to me was the wife and mother, Nora Durst, whose whole family disappeared.  Again, Perotta’s approach respects the complexity of such an event by subduing the dramatic in favor of quietly coping with this woman and her inexplicable loss – as he does with all the material.  While the ending of the book felt a little abrupt, I think that only speaks to the number questions this book raised for me, which would be fascinating to discuss in a book club setting.     


Very Unleashable

Sam's thoughts on "The Leftovers"
updated on:10/26/2011

The "sudden departure" (or is it the Rapture?) has left the survivors wondering, "What?" What happened to them? What does this mean? What was it about the departed? What is it about me, that keeps me here? What does it ALL mean? What are we here for anyway? What if this marks the end of the world? What do we do then? and most importantly… What do we do to move forward? We observe how the survivors in Mapleton try to rap their minds around these questions and figure out how to live again. These grieving leftovers take us in all manner of directions. All dealing with things their own way.  

This SHOULD be a new book club classic. Though somehow I doubt many clubs will pick it up. Which is sad - they should. It's an emotional journey presented in a quite unemotional way that makes it all the more fascinating. You will leave the book appreciating what you have (the good, the bad and the ugly) yet questioning the it all… a must read for book clubs!


"The Leftovers"
By Tom Perrotta

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.60 out of 5 (5 Clubie's ratings)

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 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

Religious or Anti-religious?
What is The Leftovers about? Is this a religious, or anti-religious, book. Is it even about religion? If not...what is it about? 

The Sudden Departure
In what ways does the world change after the Sudden Departure. What affect does it have on those left behind—both devout Christians and those not so devout? How does the departure differ from the The Rapture? What about a possible parallel with the events of 9/11—do you see any overtones of what the US went through in the aftermath of that national trauma?

New Groups
Talk about the various groups that spring up—the Barefoot People, the Guilty Remnant. In what way are their formations a response to the Sudden Departure? 

Reaction in Real Life
If the Sudden Departure occurred in real life, today, how do you think our society would react? How would you, or your family, react if a loved one departed? Would it the disappearances be a good thing, if you're a Christian, or difficult thing to cope with?

Humorous or Sad?
Is Perrotta's novel humorous or sad—a comedy or tragedy? Is it a satire?

Nora's Choice
Discuss Nora's decision to pull back from her budding relationship with Kevin. Is she justified in doing so, particularly in light of what she discovers about her husband? Is her pain too deeply felt, or might her sadness have abated had she started a new life with Kevin?

Reactions to Loss
How well does Perrotta depict ordinary individuals dealing with loss? Are his characters realistic, believable? Or are they cartoonish and one-dimensional?

Larger Issues
What larger issues, other than the Sudden Departure (or the Rapture), might be at stake in Perrotta's novel—what might he be making a broader statement about?

(Questions by LitLovers.)

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