Full disclosure, I judged a book by its cover. Before I worked at Abington, I worked in a bookstore and I distinctly remember creating a display with Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers and being struck by the haunting cover: a black and white image of a muscular man punching a concrete wall. He seemed all at once resigned to the action and full of despair. I always meant to buy the book – I was so intrigued by the cover, I assumed I would instantly fall in love with the words as well. If nothing else, I was familiar with Perrotta’s prose and could safely bet the book would captivate me. As with many things, I put it off and eventually forgot about it.
Fast-forward to a few months ago, when I heard Terry Gross interviewing a cast member of the HBO adaption of The Leftovers. Something jostled in my head and I instantly remembered the book that got away. The next day at work, I found Perrotta’s book on the shelf, flipped it open and began reading. And what a delight it was to read. You know how sometimes you begin a book and it’s hard to get into it? Your mind starts wandering and you check your phone five times? That was not the case with The Leftovers; I was hooked by page three.
The book follows a family after the occurrence of the “Sudden Departure” – a rapture-like event. Kevin, the father must adjust to a new life after his family crumbles. His wife Laurie joins a cult, his son Tom goes off on his own and attempts to distance himself from his family, and his daughter Jill, no longer an “A” student, becomes enamored with changing her image. It is a thoughtful novel about family, loss, connections, and living. At no point does the book become preachy or offer moral lessons; instead, it poses quiet “what ifs” and allows the reader to answer the questions alongside the characters.
The Leftovers is wonderfully enthralling and a book I highly recommend. Happy reading!
Find it here: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
P.S. – Once you’ve finished reading The Leftovers, reward yourself by playing Judgey.