Was it The Rapture or not? This is the launch point for Tom Perrotta’s new novel The Leftovers and his take on the possibly apocryphal event is so well done it’s one more reminder to me that I’ll never be a novelist. This theme has been cartoonized by every fundamentalist/zombie writer in the world with heavy emphasis on the horror and suffering that such an event would engender. Perrotta neatly renders those simple-minded constructs irrelevant and focuses instead on a more realistic view of those still living. If it was the Rapture then why are there religious figures, doctors, loving, caring, believers left behind? And why are families and virtually every other socially constructed group (workplace, church, sports team, school) split apart with some members gone and the rest left to figure it out? Will such an event, regardless of the reason, change the world for better…or worse?
In tackling such a ponderous subject (for some people that is- myself, I’ve already booked first class accommodations on the train to hell) there are many ways to overindulge and yet Perrotta’s writing is almost surgical as it cuts to the heart of the matter. He uses one intact family and their individual responses and slices a macro level occurrence into tiny human pieces.
If this sounds like way too much metaphysical esoteric nonsense, blame this inept writer because it’s not. The Leftovers moves through an entire panoply of human emotion without ever judging. A book about Judgement that doesn’t judge? How can that be? Because for every answer given another question is raised, which makes for marvelous and engrossing reading.
By the end we see that the world goes on. I’m only sad that the book doesn’t because I wanted to keep reading Perrotta’s picture of the life after.