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Book review: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (a guest post)

28 Nov

What’s more overdue than this blog post? Lots of things, but whatever. Onwards.

A few weeks ago (please let it only have been a few weeks), my friend Brian of The Cheek of God emailed and asked if I’d be interested in a guest review. Brian’s an excellent writer and an avid reader, and I trust his opinions about books, which is actually (unsurprisingly, characteristically, ridiculously) pretty rare.

I’ve been meaning to post about the thoughtful, beautifully written Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom for the Urban Wilderness by Lynda Lynn Haupt, but things got away from me. And really, Brian wrote a great review, and I’d be remiss to keep it from you any longer, so dang it, here it is.

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Tom Perrotta (Little ChildrenThe Abstinence Teacher) is a friend of mine on Facebook. And we keep it real. For example, just the other day I told him that I had enjoyed his recent short story (“Senior Season”) more than I was enjoying his latest novel, The Leftovers (St. Martin’s Press, 2011). I was frustrated, having reached nearly page 100 and finding nary a compelling plot in sight. Even as a recovering Pentecostal, I still find the notion of a rapture of the chosen ones more than a tiny bit intriguing; I listen for the trumpet still today. So Perrotta’s premise, of a rapture-like “Sudden Departure” and how it affects one particular small-town family, drew me in.

And then left me hanging. I wanted more, for the story to move forward, beyond those left behind to deal with the aftermath. They weren’t very interesting, after all. They just kept remembering they way things had been and spinning their wheels, only to crash into yet another day. A day with still no answers.

Others chimed in after I left my comment and told me to persevere. So I did. And a funny thing happened…I started to enjoy the story. As I spent more and more uninterrupted time with them, each character settled down into a familiar groove and just started living. The sort of living I admire, filled with surprises and knee-jerk emotions and contemplative moments where things almost start to make sense, only to vanish in a cloud of smoke. I began to care for these people, even as they did the most amazingly, and sometimes shockingly, unexpected things.

If time permits, read The Leftovers in as few sittings as possible.  In and out of it didn’t work for me, and probably won’t for you either. Let it steal you away, like a rapture would.  And enjoy the ride…

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