Loss, Grief, Hope: “The Leftovers”

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The planet keeps spinning on. But what if it did so without a chunk of it’s inhabitants? What if people just vanished, en masse, for no reason? If everyone were in mourning, if everyone were overwhelmed by grief, all over the world, all at the same time?

That’s the picture Tom Perrotta draws for us in “The Leftovers.” A world where the Rapture–or its equivalent–took place. But instead of looking at grand philosophical or religious schemes, Perrota goes for the microcosm. The mother who lost her husband and children. The woman looking for the reason, abandoning her family in its pursuit. The boy who can’t decide who to believe.

The action centers on a small town and its reactions. Like any great worldbuilder, Perrotta effortlessly draws us a world we can believe in, filling the novel with details and nuggets about the Rapture’s wider effects that ring true and make the world seem organic. Thus, even the strange becomes familiar.

Which, in the end, is what loss is about. Getting used to the holes in the world.

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