Monday, February 27, 2012

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Yet another book trapped between ratings. The Leftovers was a captivating read. I knocked it out quickly because I didn't want to put it down.

The story takes place in a town where a rapture-like even has taken place. One afternoon, people all across the world just vanished. One moment they are there, the next they aren't. No explanations. No traces of evidence. Just gone.

The people who remain are left trying to determine the reasons why this happened and why some people were gone and others were not. There seems to be no rhyme or reason and naturally, religion is called into question. A local minister is furious that he was not "called" to be one of the vanished. One woman's entire family disappears. Husband, kids, but not her.

Cults form. There's the Guilty Remnant (who have a great website), a group that has taken a vow of silence and walks around witnessing sin. There's also a fellow who has discovered he can absorb people's emotional pain and has started the Healing Hug movement where people can come to him to have their pain removed.

The book focuses primarily on the mayor's family. The mayor's wife joins the G.R. and his son leaves college to run off to assist Mr. Healing Hug (he has a name, I just forget it) leaving the mayor alone to raise his teenaged daughter.

Time passes quickly in this book. The daughter sort of loses her own way, hanging out with the wrong crowd. Mr. Healing Hug impregnates a member of his legally underaged harem with the "chosen child" but when Mr. Healing Hug is put in jail, the mayor's son is left to care for the girl and then the child (who turns out to be a female and not the anointed male he is supposed to be). The G.R. has their own secret agenda. The mayor falls for the woman whose family vanished.

The book ends all tidied up. It has a happy, albeit forced, ending. Sort of. And while there's no real casting of stones, the book does seem to be a cynical commentary on organized religion.

Perrotta's style is captivating. Although the story seems to be about how people cope (which I don't particularly find fascinating) and the characters didn't interest me much, I couldn't put it down. I'm giving it one star for the writing even though the story itself didn't quite merit it.

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