The Leftovers

Hardcover | October 17, 2016

byTom Perrotta

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A startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss from the New York Times bestselling author of The Abstinence Teacher and Little Children.

What if the Rapture happened and you got left behind? Or what if it wasn't the Rapture at all, but something murkier, a burst of mysterious, apparently random disappearances that shattered the world in a single moment, dividing history into Before and After, leaving no one unscathed? How would you rebuild your life in the wake of such a devastating event?

This is the question confronting the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a formerly comfortable suburban community that lost over a hundred people in the Sudden Departure. Kevin Garvey, the new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized neighbours, even as his own family falls apart. His wife, Laurie, has left him to enlist in the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence but haunt the streets of town as "living reminders" of God's judgment. His son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet by the name of Holy Wayne. Only Kevin's teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she's definitely not the sweet "A" student she used to be. Kevin wants to help her, but he's distracted by his growing attraction to Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family in the tragedy, and is still reeling three years later, groping for a way to face the remainder of her life.

Through the prism of a single family, Perrotta illuminates a familiar America made strange by grief and apocalyptic anxiety. The Leftovers is a powerful and deeply moving book about people struggling to hold on to a belief in their own futures.

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From the Publisher

A startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss from the New York Times bestselling author of The Abstinence Teacher and Little Children.What if the Rapture happened and you got left behind? Or what if it wasn't the Rapture at all, but something murkier, a burst of mysterious, apparently random disappearances that ...

TOM PERROTTA is the author of six works of fiction, including The Wishbones, Election and Joe College. His novels Election and Little Children were made into acclaimed and award-winning movies. He lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:368 pages, 9.26 × 6.17 × 1.3 inPublished:October 17, 2016Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307356388

ISBN - 13:9780307356383


Extra Content

Read from the Book

It was a good day for a parade, sunny and unseasonably warm, the sky a Sunday school cartoon of heaven. Not too long ago, people would have felt the need to make a nervous crack about weather like this—Hey, they’d say, maybe this global warming isn’t such a bad thing after all!— but these days no one bothered much about the hole in the ozone layer or the pathos of a world without polar bears. It seemed almost funny in retrospect, all that energy wasted fretting about something so remote and uncertain, an ecological disaster that might or might not come to pass somewhere way off in the distant future, long after you and your children and your children’s children had lived out your allotted time on earth and gone to wherever it was you went when it was all over. Despite the anxiety that had dogged him all morning, Mayor Kevin Garvey found himself gripped by an unexpected mood of nostalgia as he walked down Washington Boulevard toward the high school parking lot, where the marchers had been told to assemble. It was half an hour before showtime, the fl oats lined up and ready to roll, the marching band girding itself for battle, peppering the air with a discordant overture of bleats and toots and halfhearted drumrolls. Kevin had been born and raised in Mapleton, and he couldn’t help thinking about Fourth of July parades back when everything still made sense, half the town lined up along Main Street while the other half— Little Leaguers, scouts of both genders, gimpy Veterans of Foreign Wars trailed by the Ladies Auxiliary— strode down the middle of the road, waving to the spectators as if surprised to see them there, as if this were some kind of kooky coincidence rather than a national holiday. In Kevin’s memory, at least, it all seemed impossibly loud and hectic and innocent— fire trucks, tubas, Irish step dancers, baton twirlers in sequined costumes, one year even a squadron of fez- bedecked Shriners scooting around in those hilarious midget cars. Afterward there were softball games and cookouts, a sequence of comforting rituals culminating in the big fireworks display over Fielding Lake, hundreds of rapt faces turned skyward, oohing and wowing at the sizzling pinwheels and slow- blooming starbursts that lit up the darkness, reminding everyone of who they were and where they belonged and why it was all good. Today’s event— the first annual Departed Heroes’ Day of Remembrance and Reflection, to be precise— wasn’t going to be anything like that. Kevin could sense the somber mood as soon as he arrived at the high school, the invisible haze of stale grief and chronic bewilderment thickening the air, causing people to talk more softly and move more tentatively than they normally would at a big outdoor gathering. On the other hand, he was both surprised and gratified by the turnout, given the cool reception the parade had received when it was first proposed. Some critics thought the timing was wrong (“Too soon!” they’d insisted), while others suggested that a secular commemoration of October 14th was wrongheaded and possibly blasphemous. These objections had faded over time, either because the organizers had done a good job winning over the skeptics, or because people just generally liked a parade, regardless of the occasion. In any case, so many Mapletonians had volunteered to march that Kevin wondered if there’d be anyone left to cheer them on from the sidelines as they made their way down Main Street to Greenway Park. He hesitated for a moment just inside the line of police barricades, marshaling his strength for what he knew would be a long and difficult day. Everywhere he looked he saw broken people and fresh reminders of suffering. He waved to Martha Reeder, the once- chatty lady who worked the stamp window at the Post Office; she smiled sadly, turning to give him a better look at the homemade sign she was holding. It featured a poster- sized photograph of her three- year- old granddaughter, a serious child with curly hair and slightly crooked eyeglasses. ashley, it said, my little angel. Standing beside her was Stan Washburn— a retired cop and former Pop Warner coach of Kevin’s— a squat, no- neck guy whose T-shirt, stretched tight over an impressive beer gut, invited anyone who cared to ask me about my brother. Kevin felt a sudden powerful urge to flee, to run home and spend the afternoon lifting weights or raking leaves— anything solitary and mindless would do— but it passed quickly, like a hiccup or a shameful sexual fantasy. Expelling a soft dutiful sigh, he waded into the crowd, shaking hands and calling out names, doing his best impersonation of a smalltown politician. An ex– Mapleton High football star and prominent local businessman— he’d inherited and expanded his family’s chain of supermarket- sized liquor stores, tripling the revenue during his fifteen year tenure— Kevin was a popular and highly visible figure around town, but the idea of running for office had never crossed his mind. Then, just last year, out of the blue, he was presented with a petition signed by two hundred fellow citizens, many of whom he knew well: “We, the undersigned, are desperate for leadership in these dark times. Will you help us take back our town?” Touched by this appeal and feeling a bit lost himself— he’d sold the business for a small fortune a few months earlier, and still hadn’t figured out what to do next— he accepted the mayoral nomination of a newly formed political entity called the Hopeful Party. Kevin won the election in a landslide, unseating Rick Malvern, the three- term incumbent who’d lost the confidence of the voters after attempting to burn down his own house in an act of what he called “ritual purification.” It didn’t work— the fire department insisted on extinguishing the blaze over his bitter objections— and these days Rick was living in a tent in his front yard, the charred remains of his five bedroom Victorian hulking in the background. Every now and then, when Kevin went running in the early morning, he would happen upon his former rival just as he was emerging from the tent— one time barechested and clad only in striped boxers— and the two men would exchange an awkward greeting on the otherwise silent street, a Yo or a Hey or a What’s up?, just to show there were no hard feelings. As much as he disliked the flesh- pressing, backslapping aspect of his new job, Kevin felt an obligation to make himself accessible to his constituents, even the cranks and malcontents who inevitably came out of the woodwork at public events. The first to accost him in the parking lot was Ralph Sorrento, a surly plumber from Sycamore Road, who bulled his way through a cluster of sad- looking women in identical pink T-shirts and planted himself directly in Kevin’s path. “Mr. Mayor,” he drawled, smirking as though there were something inherently ridiculous about the title. “I was hoping I’d run into you. You never answer my e-mails.” “Morning, Ralph.” Sorrento folded his arms across his chest and studied Kevin with an unsettling combination of amusement and disdain. He was a big, thick- bodied man with a buzz cut and a bristly goatee, dressed in grease- stained cargo pants and a thermal- lined hoodie. Even at this hour— it was not yet eleven— Kevin could smell beer on his breath and see that he was looking for trouble. “Just so we’re clear,” Sorrento announced in an unnaturally loud voice. “I’m not paying that fucking money.” The money in question was a hundred- dollar fine he’d been assessed for shooting at a pack of stray dogs that had wandered into his yard. A beagle had been killed on the spot, but a shepherd- lab mix had hobbled away with a bullet in its hind leg, dripping a three- block trail of blood before collapsing on the sidewalk not far from the Little Sprouts Academy on Oak Street. Normally the police didn’t get too exercised about a shot dog— it happened with depressing regularity— but a handful of the Sprouts had witnessed the animal’s agony, and the complaints of their parents and guardians had led to Sorrento’s prosecution. “Watch your language,” Kevin warned him, uncomfortably aware of the heads turning in their direction. Sorrento jabbed an index finger into Kevin’s rib cage. “I’m sick of those mutts crapping on my lawn.” “Nobody likes the dogs,” Kevin conceded. “But next time call Animal Control, okay?” “Animal Control.” Sorrento repeated the words with a contemptuous chuckle. Again he jabbed at Kevin’s sternum, fingertip digging into bone. “They don’t do shit.” “They’re understaffed.” Kevin forced a polite smile. “They’re doing the best they can in a bad situation. We all are. I’m sure you understand that.” As if to indicate that he did understand, Sorrento eased the pressure on Kevin’s breastbone. He leaned in close, his breath sour, his voice low and intimate. “Do me a favor, okay? You tell the cops if they want my money, they’re gonna have to come and get it. Tell ’em I’ll be waiting for ’em with my sawed- off shotgun.” He grinned, trying to look like a badass, but Kevin could see the pain in his eyes, the glassy, pleading look behind the bluster. If he remembered correctly, Sorrento had lost a daughter, a chubby girl, maybe nine or ten. Tiff any or Britney, a name like that. “I’ll pass it along.” Kevin patted him gently on the shoulder. “Now, why don’t you go home and get some rest.” Sorrento slapped at Kevin’s hand. “Don’t fucking touch me.” “Sorry.” “Just tell ’em what I told you, okay?” Kevin promised he would, then hurried off , trying to ignore the lump of dread that had suddenly materialized in his gut. Unlike some of the neighboring towns, Mapleton had never experienced a suicide by cop, but Kevin sensed that Ralph Sorrento was at least fantasizing about the idea. His plan didn’t seem especially inspired— the cops had bigger things to worry about than an unpaid fine for animal cruelty— but there were all sorts of ways to provoke a confrontation if you really had your heart set on it. He’d have to tell the chief, make sure the patrol officers knew what they were dealing with. Distracted by these thoughts, Kevin didn’t realize he was heading straight for the Reverend Matt Jamison, formerly of the Zion Bible Church, until it was too late to make an evasive maneuver. All he could do was raise both hands in a futile attempt to fend off the gossip rag the Reverend was thrusting in his face. “Take it,” the Reverend said. “There’s stuff in here that’ll knock your socks off .” Seeing no graceful way out, Kevin reluctantly took possession of a newsletter that went by the emphatic but unwieldy title “OCTOBER 14TH WAS NOT THE RAPTURE!!!” The front page featured a photograph of Dr. Hillary Edgers, a beloved pediatrician who’d disappeared three years earlier, along with eighty- seven other local residents and untold millions of people throughout the world. doctor’s bisexual college years exposed! the headline proclaimed. A boxed quote in the article below read, “ ‘We totally thought she was gay,’ former roommate reveals.” Kevin had known and admired Dr. Edgers, whose twin sons were the same age as his daughter. She’d volunteered two evenings a week at a free clinic for poor kids in the city, and gave lectures to the PTA on subjects like “The Long- Term Effects of Concussions in Young Athletes” and “How to Recognize an Eating Disorder.” People buttonholed her all the time at the soccer field and the supermarket, fishing for free medical advice, but she never seemed resentful about it, or even mildly impatient. “Jesus, Matt. Is this necessary?” Reverend Jamison seemed mystified by the question. He was a trim, sandy- haired man of about forty, but his face had gone slack and pouchy in the past couple of years, as if he were aging on an accelerated schedule. “These people weren’t heroes. We have to stop treating them like they were. I mean, this whole parade—” “The woman had kids. They don’t need to be reading about who she slept with in college.” “But it’s the truth. We can’t hide from the truth.” Kevin knew it was useless to argue. By all accounts, Matt Jamison used to be a decent guy, but he’d lost his bearings. Like a lot of devout Christians, he’d been deeply traumatized by the Sudden Departure, tormented by the fear that Judgment Day had come and gone, and he’d been found lacking. While some people in his position had responded with redoubled piety, the Reverend had moved in the opposite direction, taking up the cause of Rapture Denial with a vengeance, dedicating his life to proving that the people who’d slipped their earthly chains on October 14th were neither good Christians nor even especially virtuous individuals. In the process, he’d become a dogged investigative journalist and a complete pain in the ass. “All right,” Kevin muttered, folding the newsletter and jamming it into his back pocket. “I’ll give it a look.”   

Editorial Reviews

A New York Times Notable Book“Striking. . . . The Leftovers is, simply put, the best Twilight Zone episode you never saw. . . . Beautifully modulated narration. . . . His lines have a calm and unshowy clarity.” —Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review“Tom Perrotta is incapable of writing a bad book; I’ve loved all his books so far. . . . Trust Perrotta to find very trenchant things to say about our cultural condition by means of this inventive premise. . . . Perrotta is one of our most underrated writers, and deserves the widest possible audience.” —The Huffington Post“His most ambitious book.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)Praise for Tom Perrotta: "He's the Steinbeck of suburbia." —TIME"His brand of bracing, suburban fiction, domestic realism laced with biting satire, is a delight, with depths at which film can only hint. Writing with clear, subtle prose and winning emotional directness, Perrotta has been chronicling the American heart and soul, its follies and foibles, for almost a decade, without misstep." —The Globe and Mail“An American Chekhov whose characters, even at their most ridiculous, seem blessed and ennobled by a luminous human aura.” —The New York Times Book Review “That rare combination: a satirist with heart.” —The Seattle Times