Tom Perrotta’s latest fictional work, The Leftovers, has a fascinating premise: something similar to the biblical Rapture occurs around the world; and, a few million people disappear. While the stories of survivors are heavy-hearted and difficult, the prose flows with the kind of readability that keeps a reader focused and guessing about the creative and disturbing events, which take place for characters who remain on Earth post-Rapture.
The storylines are creative, because the reader is left to consider: where did the people go, why are the people who are left behind the ones who did not disappear, and what would he or she do if a similar event took place today? Perrotta’s inventiveness is exceptional, because it encourages analysis from readers, which extends beyond consideration of the occurrences within the text. Instead, readers are able to combine fiction and reality to devise their own “what if” scenario as the novel continues. Larger concepts and lives of characters are examined in detail by reader and author together.
Perrotta’s answers to these questions keep a reader occupied and interested, because the reader knows he or she would long for answers to these same lingering questions, which are both disturbing and uncertain. A reader can relate to the lost, lonely, and vulnerable qualities woven into the characters. Where did the missing go? No one knows where they are, they seem to have disintegrated into thin air, and this leaves those left behind feeling incomplete and confused. Why were the missing chosen and others left on Earth? Those taken were multi-denominational, all ages, races, so the survivors can’t draw perfect lines to the Rapture, but the resemblance is close enough to leave them with the notion God has passed them by. Finally what should they do now? The reactions of the survivors range from political, mental illness, crime, to religious extremes, such as the forming of cults. As readers we can imagine this world full of anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness; thus, we can easily picture the scenarios Perrotta envisions.
For those who enjoy alternate depictions of the the world, the novel is a solid combination of fantasy, originality, and personality, delivered in the form of well-written and imaginative prose.What might normally seem dark and dreary subject matter is saved by the possibilities for hope that linger throughout. Tom Perrotta has constructed a great piece of fiction with The Leftovers.