Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Leftovers - by Tom Perrotta

A rapture-like event, which "disappears" people from all over the world without explanation, leaves questions for all those left behind. Why weren't they chosen? Why were they left to grieve? What is the meaning of life? Where do I go now? Some find answers by creating or joining new religions, others try to pick up the pieces and find a "new normal" with what is left.

Unlike what we find in Perrota's The Abstinence Teacherwhich has a librarian as one of the characters, and some action within the library, references to libraries in The Leftovers are few, and always just a thought, rather than a place of action. Seventeen-year old Jill, thinks about going to the library in order to skim a book she should have read for class, but decides against it. When she is late coming home her father guesses that she must be in the library. Nora Durst, who lost her husband and two young children in the "Sudden Departure" comtemplates donating her entire collection of SpongeBob Square Pants DVDs to the library. We do not find out if she actually follows through. Library as metaphor is used in describing Nora's ex-boyfriend "...a charasmatic philosophy major whose library pallor and pudgy waistline...didn't detract in the least from his brainy appeal." To which I ask: how could anyone think that a library pallor would detract from one's appeal? For that matter, why would a pudgy waistline?

This is the third of Perrotta's "suburban" novels I've read. The other two made me feel smug. As a town-center dweller, I know I am not like those cookie-cutter people who live in the suburban boxes. This book, though, made me uneasy. Several sub-cultures emerge from the remains of the Sudden Departure, each with its own set of rules, and here I a recognized myself as just another archtype, different from the suburbanites to be sure, but the same as the rest of my neighbors who also run errands on foot, and shop at the Farmer's Market.

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