Perrotta has delivered a troubling disquisition on how ordinary people react to extraordinary and inexplicable events, the power of family to hurt and to heal, and the unobtrusive ease with which faith can slide into fanaticism … Perrotta’s novel opens three years after a rapturelike event has whisked millions of people off the face of the earth. Just how many millions Perrotta doesn’t specify, but it can’t have been too many, because the phones still work and Starbucks still dispenses coffee by the grande … Perrotta suggests that in times of real trouble, extremism trumps logic and dialogue becomes meaningless. Read as a metaphor for the social and political splintering of American society after 9/11, it’s a chillingly accurate diagnosis.
Mr. Perrotta has trouble reconciling this high concept platform with his talent for smaller-scale portraits of awkward adolescents and angst-ridden suburban families. The result is a poignant but deeply flawed novel … The Sudden Departure, which occurred one Oct. 14, is never made remotely real — we’re told that various children and spouses just abruptly vanished into thin air — and laborious and unconvincing analogies to 9/11 are repeatedly hurled at the reader … It is the portions of The Leftovers where Mr. Perrotta avoids the more cartoony and melodramatic aspects of his story that are by far the most persuasive.
Saints and sinners, Christians and Muslims, even atheists and homosexuals have all been gathered up indiscriminately by the Son of God. Or something. It’s impossible to say … What we have is a novel soaked in mourning from its very first pages: a survivor’s tale, like a story of 9/11 without any ashes or anyone to blame, which, of course, is a recipe for self-mutilation in the dark minds of the inconsolable … Leavened with humor and tinged with creepiness, this insightful novel draws us into some very dark corners of the human psyche. Sad as these people are, their sorrow is absorbing rather than depressing.
The Leftovers represents his go at science fiction, as he invents a Rapture-like event in order to explore the fallout on the survivors – specifically the family of Kevin Garvey, the mayor of Mapleton. But it’s a gentle, Perrotta-esque go at sci-fi, without any mangled bodies or bombed-out buildings; it’s a realistic novel built on a supernatural foundation … Some families lost many; others lost none. No algorithm emerged, although many survivors - the leftovers of the title - still struggle to find one … Kevin walks through all this upheaval with a mild sense of denial. His optimism is both appealing and frustrating … Perrotta’s tone is plainspoken, elegiac, and universal, not incendiary.
At the heart of the novel is a sense not just of loss but also of futility, as if God had asserted himself or herself only to leave everyone more confused. What does it mean that the Rapture has no meaning, that there is no logic as to who was chosen and who was not? … The point is that we can't rely on outside structures for meaning, religious or otherwise. This is why Perrotta invokes not just the Rapture but also its date — Oct. 14, with its echo of Sept. 11 — as a metaphor … We understand that they are rootless, that the Rapture, such as it is, has undermined some notion of how the universe is supposed to work...He catalogs the despair, the desperation, without fully inhabiting it, until Kevin and then Nora make their hearts known.
The town he writes here is filled with the flawed and graceful people we are (the slightly mad, the slightly devious, the slightly adulterous, the charming obsessives) as well as with those who have been so hammered by their losses on Oct. 14 that they cannot find their way back into the lives they led … Perrotta sets himself an ambitious task, to create a believable world after such a shattering event, and he pulls it off, with an admirable tenderness for his characters, an able craftsman's ratcheting of tension, and a lovely gentle surprise ending. At 355 pages, he also goes on far too long - this is yet another novel that would have been better shorter - and in the final analysis his characters are a little wooden.
This is the oh-so-strange-and-enticing starting point for Tom Perrotta's latest novel. He calls the event a ‘random harvest,’ adding, ‘An indiscriminate Rapture was no Rapture at all’ … Perrotta seeks emotional depth — and finds it, by placing an ordinary family in these extraordinary times, and by choosing the most familiar of settings, a suburb … Perrotta combines absurd circumstance and authentic character to wondrous effect, turning his story into a vivid exploration of what we believe, what matters most, and how, if untethered, we move on … Each member of the Garvey family will take a different path through this New World, and as they do, you'll find yourself caring about the choices they make and the consequences they meet. Perrotta treats his characters with sympathy and invites readers to do the same.
In the town of Mapleton, the young and old struggle through their daily lives as they come to grips with losing family members and childhood friends, while cults such as the Healing Hug Movement, the Barefoot People and the Guilty Remnant (also known as the Watchers) prey upon the vulnerable and the grieving survivors … The Garvey family did not lose any family members to the Sudden Departure, but lost them instead to the aftermath of emotion and rudderless activity that envelops the entire community … Perrotta has a gifted ear for dialogue and a distinct appreciation for the particularities of suburban life. However, it was difficult to understand what motivated his characters to make the choices they did. There was an emptiness to their actions that could not be attributed to the Sudden Departure or the grieving process.