It's The End of the World As We Know It

Hey, look! December 21 has come and gone, and if a gigantic Mayan-style apocalypse happened, I seem to have missed it. It's only by happenstance that I just wrapped up Tom Perotta's The Leftovers, which is about the differing paths people take once a Rapture-like event has caused a large chunk of the population to vanish suddenly. The premise is certainly intriguing, especially since the disappearance doesn't adhere to any strict religious tenets; people of all stripes are taken, and people of all stripes are left behind.

Nobody treats this as a joyous event. Religious people freak out over not being "chosen", while those who don't ascribe the disappearances to any particular deity are still shattered by losing their friends and loved ones. Various cults spring up like weeds, and even families who didn't lose anyone are blown apart by characters choosing to take their lives in a wildly different direction.

As I said, an intriguing premise, right? Unfortunately, it's not developed as deeply as I'd have liked. There are so many paths to take when you're suddenly alone and confronted by crushing self-reflection and moral quandaries, and these characters just kind of wander around. A woman following her conscience abandons her husband and children to join a doomsday cult, and... Nobody in the family much cares. A woman spends the whole book falling to pieces after her family vanished, and... Is instantaneously restored to peace and happiness by a stranger's infant.

For readers looking for an interesting premise, this book explores some really fascinating ideas. But for those looking for a cohesive, well-written story within that framework, you may come away a bit disappointed.

The Leftovers: C+


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