Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Leftovers: Left Behind, only funny

The last book I read in 2011 is a weird one and memorable. With The Leftovers, New Jersey author Tom Perrotta imagines how the world would react if suddenly millions of people just disappeared. Poof, like the Rapture, only maybe it isn't really the Rapture. Exactly what happened and why is never clear to the reader or to the millions of people left behind on earth: the 'Leftovers.' The author is funny and sad, nostalgic and hopeful, all in the same sentence. I think this may be Perrotta's trademark emotional style. The premise is depressing, but with humorous observations about suburban New Jersey life to balance out the overall tone of the book. Who was taken out (up?): the Pope, TV chefs and various pop stars. Who was left behind?: the good and the bad and most of all the ordinary, common man and woman. Cults arise to deal with the worldwide tragedy and the authors satire of cults is also funny but sad. The 'Guilty Remnant' cult followers wear white, take a vow of silence, smoke cigarettes and follow and watch people, all the while staring and blowing smoke at them. The Holy Waynes follow a charismatic leader who starts out with good intentions to heal the bereft,  but then becomes an amoral egomaniac. The Barefoot People are like hippies with an eye painted on their foreheads who go the opposite way from the Guilty Remnants, they are the hedonists to their stoics.
Definitely a book to think about long after turning the last page.

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