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Mirkat Always Reading

I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.


The Leftovers - Tom Perrotta, Dennis Boutsikaris



Before becoming aware of this book, I checked out the DVD of the first season of the HBO TV adaptation.  While I found the premise intriguing, for some reason, I just couldn't get into it, and I ended up bailing after a couple-few episodes.  But I was still intrigued enough that when I came across the downloadable audiobook in my library's e-collection, I grabbed it.  I will probably give the show another try, even though I've seen a book review indicating that the show and book are quite different from one another.  Having adjusted to the differences between the Bones TV series and the books that inspired it, I think I can probably handle that.


The Leftovers is set in a small suburban town called Mapleton.  Its populace has been adjusting (or failing to adjust) to an event known as "The Sudden Departure," or alternately "The Rapture" or simply "October 14."  A segment of the population simply disappeared, leaving those who remain to grieve, puzzle, and struggle to go on.  The primary focus of the novel is the Garvey family.  Its patriarch Kevin became mayor after October 14th, and early in the narrative, he is organizing a three-year anniversary event, "the first annual Departed Heroes' Day of Remembrance and Reflection." 


Although Kevin's immediate family was technically left intact three years before, its members have come undone in other ways.  Laurie Garvey, Kevin's wife, walked away from their family to join a cult called the Guilty Remnant. The members of the GR live in a compound, take a vow of silence, and wander the town in pairs, wearing white clothing, smoking cigarettes (a gesture meant to acknowledge their limited time left on Earth), and silently judging various members of the community.  The Garveys' son Tom dropped out of Syracuse University to follow a self-styled religious leader known as Holy Wayne.  Teenage daughter Jill, having been in the same room when her friend Jen Sussman vanished, has gone from a straight-A student to being on the brink of flunking out during her senior year.  Meanwhile, Kevin has found himself drawn to Nora Durst, a woman whose husband and two young children were among the departed.


The narrative takes the reader through multiple points of view:  Kevin, Laurie, Tom, Jill, and Nora.  Each struggles to figure out their place in their new world and to interpret what exactly happened three years before.  The characters' stories held my interest, and the author did a good job of intertwining serious drama with moments of humor and levity.  My one complaint is that this book has one of those endings that is more of a "stopping."  Don't expect closure.  I would have appreciated a few more chapters wrapping things us more definitively, but arguably this is what life is like:  episodic and open-ended.