'The Leftovers'

Caught Terry Gross’ interview Thursday with author Tom Perrotta on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” Perrotta’s new novel, Gross says:

… starts with this premise: What if suddenly millions of people instantaneously vanished around the world in a scenario similar to but definitely different from the Rapture?

The novel is about those people left on Earth or, as the title puts it, The Leftovers. Perrotta writes about how they cope with grief and loss and why some see this as an act of God and believe it’s the start of the end times while others struggle to find ways to live with the inexplicable.

Perrotta read an excerpt on the show:

Something tragic occurred, the experts repeated over and over. It was a Rapture-like phenomenon, but it doesn’t appear to have been the Rapture.

Interestingly, some of the loudest voices making this argument belonged to Christians themselves, who couldn’t help noticing that many of the people who’d disappeared on October 14th — Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and atheists and animists and homosexuals and Eskimos and Mormons and Zoroastrians, whatever the heck they were — hadn’t accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

As far as anyone could tell, it was a random harvest, and the one thing the Rapture couldn’t be was random. The whole point was to separate the wheat from the chaff, to reward the true believers and put the rest of the world on notice. An indiscriminate Rapture was no Rapture at all.

So it was easy enough to be confused, to throw up your hands and claim that you just didn’t know what was going on. But Laurie knew. Deep in her heart, as soon as it happened, she knew. She’d been left behind. They all had.

It didn’t matter that God hadn’t factored religion into His decision-making. If anything, that just made it worse, more of a personal rejection. …

Perrotta also said:

… to choose the Rapture as your subject matter means that you’re dealing with characters who are grieving for the missing. And the story is the story of an epidemic of grief and loss …

So, yes, I plan on reading this.

In a mostly positive review, Boston Globe critic Matthew Gilbert writes:

Random loss coupled with the anguished people left in its wake — that’s life, right? In The Leftovers, the Sudden Departure and its consequences plays out as a metaphor for the human reality, which is that sudden departures are everyday occurrences.

And the circle is complete. First, Bible passages about death get twisted into the death-denying notion of “the Rapture.” Then the cultural phenomenon of Rapture-mania prompts a book in which the Rapture serves as a metaphor for death.

Two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

That’s either a profound passage about the one certainty that awaits us all, or else it’s an esoteric prophecy reserved only for a select few readers in the Last Days, but utterly irrelevant to the billions of readers who lived and died over the previous 2,000 years.

  • Anonymous

    That does sound interesting.  Yeah I’ve never been sure what separates the Rapture from death other than assertion that that’s it.

  • patter

    The cover alone would be worth the price.

  • Bificommander

    I’m reminded of something else by that cover
    http://www.amazon.com/Paranoia-RPG-Rulebook-Allen-Varney/dp/1904854265
    Hmm, a Left Behind-Paranoia hybrid. “Friend Jesus is your Friend. Friend Jesus is wise. Friend Jesus wants Millenial Complex to be blissfull. Bliss is mandatory. Failure to be blissfull is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution and damnation. Have a happy daycycle.”

    Anyway, a ‘Left Behind story done right’ is in high demand here. I think a writer could copy paste Fred’s post and the commentary and be halfway there (though distilling the discussions about TV shows, pie recipes, and the occasional C.S. Lewis flamewar would probably be as much work as writing it yourself), but none of us frankly want a PMD propaganda piece that’s actually good. So I suppose this book is as good as it’s gonna get for us.  And it sounds like God has been a lot more sensible, and has gone for the good guys instead of the scriptural ass-kissers. Or not, perhaps God just took the biggest jerks. Might pick up this book at some point.
     

  • http://homeinbabylon.com/ Chuchundra

    I heard this interview the other day and I immediately thought, “Hmm, I wonder what Fred will have to say about it?”.

    I’m planning to read the book, but I’m also looking forward to the show on HBO. I love my vampires, gangsters and sword play, but there hasn’t really been a decent show about life and death since Six Feet Under.

  • MikeJ

    Same guy who wrote Election.  Might be worth a look.

  • Alex

    Well there goes my get-rich-quick idea.

  • Anonymous

    That sounds rather interesting. I don’t think I’ll buy it, but I’ll look for it at the library.

    I hope it captures the trauma of those remaining after it right.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In-teresting. I’ll put it on my to-read list XD

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In-teresting. I’ll put it on my to-read list XD

  • Anonymous

    It’ll have to wait behind GRRM and then the new R. Scott Bakker book.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, definitely one to toss on the increasingly out of control To Read list. 

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Judging from the first few pages, this is going to be a great book…

    *adds to wishlist*

  • Mau de Katt

    I just reserved it at the library.  And I got my request in soon enough that I’m in the “first round” of borrowers, if their “number of ordered copies”/”number of hold requests” data are accurate.

    That said, if it ends up being just another infuriating bait-and-switch like The Christ Clone Trilogy, I will be… upset.  (Though honestly, with that setup, I don’t see how it could be.)

    .

    (Don’t get me wrong — “CCT” is what PMD Rapture novels should be like.  But the fact that they are PMD Rapture Novels isn’t obvious until a long way into the trilogy; just the opposite, in fact.  Indeed, the first two were set up so amazingly well, and really made it seem like “the archetypal Rapture plotline turned upside-down-and-backwards,” that when the plot finally did coalesce into Just Another PMD Rapture Story, I almost pulled a Dorothy Parker on my copy out of sheer disgust.)

  • Mau de Katt

    I just reserved it at the library.  And I got my request in soon enough that I’m in the “first round” of borrowers, if their “number of ordered copies”/”number of hold requests” data are accurate.

    That said, if it ends up being just another infuriating bait-and-switch like The Christ Clone Trilogy, I will be… upset.  (Though honestly, with that setup, I don’t see how it could be.)

    .

    (Don’t get me wrong — “CCT” is what PMD Rapture novels should be like.  But the fact that they are PMD Rapture Novels isn’t obvious until a long way into the trilogy; just the opposite, in fact.  Indeed, the first two were set up so amazingly well, and really made it seem like “the archetypal Rapture plotline turned upside-down-and-backwards,” that when the plot finally did coalesce into Just Another PMD Rapture Story, I almost pulled a Dorothy Parker on my copy out of sheer disgust.)

  • Mau de Katt

    I did have a classic double-take on the author’s
    name, however.  For some reason, when I saw “Tom Perrotta,” especially
    in the context of this blog, my brain read it as “Frank Peretti.”

    (“buh-whuhhh???”)

  • Reverend Ref

    And already in 204 words Mr. Perrotta has more thought, deeper emotions and better developed characters than anything to be found in the 800-some pages we’ve been subjected to in the LB series.

    If I didn’t have so much stuff to do already, I’d be reading this book.

  • chris the cynic

    Yours too?

  • http://twitter.com/NewsCat_in_DC Rachel Joy Larris

    Firstly, when I heard about the book it occurred to me that Tom Perrotta may have been reading Slacktivist when he got inspired. I don’t think it’s crazy at all considering the popularity of this blog and reference to Left Behind to assume that Perrotta didn’t come across it and realize that your four-year-long critique was valid and yet the concept (the realities of being “Left Behind”) was still interesting.

    Secondly, I was MAJORLY FUCKING PISSED to read there would be no explaination from the author or in the book behind the disappearances. Basically because Perrotta doesn’t want to come up with one. It’s a major plot device, and even if you don’t like whatever stupid explaination you have to come up with, to NOT have one says YOU’RE UNIMAGINATIVE. I’m wondering if they’ll put up with that for the TV series. I doubt it.

  • Rupaul

    I just added this to my “requests” list at the library, and I’m number 66 on the list. Spooky. 

  • BC

    One thing I thought interesting from the interview:  Perotta’s “Bruce Barnes” isn’t buying that he’s been left behind, so he goes out to investigate those taken to show that they weren’t saints – so it wasn’t the Rapture after all, take that!   This is an element missing from the LaJenkins tomes, the idea that some RTCs left behind wouldn’t take it as judgment on themselves but rather try to prove that it wasn’t the true rapture after all.   I want to read the book, too.

  • Rikalous

    Secondly, I was MAJORLY FUCKING PISSED to read there would be no
    explaination from the author or in the book behind the disappearances.
    Basically because Perrotta doesn’t want to come up with one. It’s a
    major plot device, and even if you don’t like whatever stupid
    explaination you have to come up with, to NOT have one says YOU’RE
    UNIMAGINATIVE. I’m wondering if they’ll put up with that for the TV
    series. I doubt it.

    I don’t think an explanation is really important, because it sounds like it’s not really about the Event; it’s about people’s reactions to it. Plenty of zombie fiction doesn’t explain where the zombies come from, and they don’t need to because the stories aren’t about necromancy or biologically unlikely epidemics, they’re about people and how people deal with these horrors that include their own former loved ones in their ranks.

    For something a bit less apocalyptic, there’s a book I read, Generation Dead, about American teenagers rising from their graves. There’s something of a running gag about theories about why this is happening, and why it’s only happening to American teens. One guy thinks it’s a mix of hormones and fast food, another thinks FPSs are rewiring their brains, and so forth. All these explanations are pretty ridiculous, which makes sense because the knowledge we currently possess says the premise is ridiculous. If there was a breakthrough in science or magic or religion to explain why it could be happening, the story would become about the breakthrough and how people dealt with it, rather than about the Differently Biotic, and how people dealt with them.

    Course, I’m agnostic, so the big questions not having an answer apart from 42 might be less of a problem for me than most folks.

  • Lyra

    I can’t speak for this book specifically, but I often don’t like it when authors feel the need to explain absolutely everything. I read a chunk of the Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and one of the things I really loved about it was the fact that (at first) the vampires had no idea where they came from, why they were the way they were, and so on. It made it much more real, and I loved watching the characters have to deal with their lack of knowledge. I was incredibly unhappy when Anne Rice went on to explain not only where the vampires came from, but (later) where absolutely everything came from. It was a profound letdown and absolutely ruined it for me. So maybe this book would fall into that category for me. Only reading it would determine that, I suppose.

  • Matri

    It didn’t matter that God hadn’t factored religion into His
    decision-making. If anything, that just made it worse, more of a
    personal rejection.

    This alone says the author isn’t just pandering to the PMDs. Might be worth checking out.

  • Matri

    It didn’t matter that God hadn’t factored religion into His
    decision-making. If anything, that just made it worse, more of a
    personal rejection.

    This alone says the author isn’t just pandering to the PMDs. Might be worth checking out.

  • P J Evans

    Well, there’s Charlie Stross and his Eschaton (a Weakly Godlike Being), which magically moved groups of people to other planets and left them with just enough tools to survive, if they worked together, and a set of rules to live by. (It cut the population on Earth by a large percentage, if I read it correctly, but didn’t actually solve any problems anywhere.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Whenever a writer refuses to provide an explanation for their phenomena, my first thought is always that they wimped out on world-building, and don’t actually have a reason behind the phenomena beyond it being necessary to the story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I did rather like how in Y: The Last Man, while there is never an official explanation for the Gendercide in the comic, the author has stated that one of the theories presented in the narrative is correct.

  • http://semperfiona.livejournal.com Semperfiona

    I just read the excerpt at Tor.com, and Perrotta managed to make me tear up with only a couple pages’ worth of story. (Nora’s speech, particularly…”I’m not greedy, I don’t ask for that perfect day..”)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X