What would YOU do?
The bracelet saying “WWJD” asks "what would Jesus do?" but a discussion about Tom Perrotta’s new book The Leftovers could definitely start by asking "what would YOU do?" Set in the near future in his favorite landscape, suburbia, Perrotta book deals with an apocalyptic type event which takes place on October 14 (eerily close by) where over 1 million people across the world instantaneously disappeared. Poof, no ash pile, no screams. Gone. He calls it the “Sudden Departure.” What would you do if your family just vanished from the dining room table while you were in the other room? How about if you were at the gym and the guy running next to you evaporated? This plotline alone without even talking about how the characters reacted to the “Sudden Departure” could start a lengthy book group conversation.
Perrotta’s book examines how one family in the small suburban town of Mapleton is coping with the fallout of that October 14th day. Kevin Garvey, recently appointed mayor, has decided to move on and honor those departed with an annual parade. His wife Laurie has become obsessed with figuring out why she was ‘leftover” and joins a cult called the “Guilty Remnant” that has extremely disturbing rituals. Daughter Jill, an eyewitness to the event who lost her best friend while watching after-school TV, has spiraled into an out-of-control teenager. Their son, Tom, leaves college to follow a man turned prophet who claims to be able to hug away emotional pain. Many reviews of The Leftovers compare the reactions of the grieving to those affected to survivors of 9/11, but interviews with Perotta seem to suggest he’s addressing the topic of death and loss, issues that people deal with that every day.
Fans of other Perrotta titles like Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher are sure to enjoy his latest, most melodramatic and cinematic work, and if your book group is looking for a future selection this would be a good choice.