Sunday, January 8, 2012


How do we respond when people in our lives disappear?

I just finished a book called, The Leftovers. The premise, at face value, is preposterous. What would happen if people in our lives abruptly disappeared? How would we react? Who would we become?

Tom Perrotta, the author, has written a number of books that I have enjoyed reading. The best, Little Children, was made into a movie that was nearly as good as the book. But this one seemed to have an absurd premise.

I am not giving anything away with this, since what I am about to relay has already occurred at the beginning of the book. Throughout the world on October 14th, people just vanish. Not all people vanish (and not necessarily good people--so despite what some of the "leftovers" claim this is not a Rapture). A teenager is looking at a yearbook with a friend and when she looks up, the friend is gone. A mother goes into the kitchen to fetch a towel to clean up her child's dinner spill, and returns and her husband and children are gone. Throughout the world, people just vanish.

The plot is so other worldly that while I was reading I was often shrugging my shoulders in a "this is ridickalus" motion.

So, I was startled when about fifty pages before the end, I got the, duh, point. How do humans react when love and life vanishes and we are bereft. Do we buck up and forge ahead? Do we try to make sense out of what is inexplicable but find our sense making apparatus off kilter and therefore skid precariously away from a healthy path. Life and love are so central to our essence, so much more important than wealth and even food--so if life and love just disappears is it inevitable that our society, our families, and each of us individually behave as if we are malnourished?

I like the way the author writes and enjoy reading his books because they are fun and descriptive in a way that makes me marvel at his talent, in the same way I might marvel at an athlete's skill. But this book is not for entertainment purposes only. It is unsettling as a reflection of how we individually and how we as a society respond to loss of life and love.

1 comment:

  1. As soon I finish my present book (World Without End) I will tackle this one. Though it may be "unsettling". The thought of loved ones disappearing is terrifying. I may be a glutton for punishment.