The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Read by Dennis Boutsikaris
Genre: Literary Apocalypse
Quick Thoughts: The Leftovers is an intimate tale, not of a physical apocalypse, but of an apocalypse of the soul where the true enemy is not some vast conspiracy but the lingering memories of those who were taken.
Release Date: August 30, 2011
I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist church who where pre-millennial dispensationalists. Simply put, my church taught that the true Christian believers would be raptured home to be with God and those left behind would then experience a time of tribulation lasting seven years in which the Anti-Christ will rise, leading to the ultimate battle between good and evil. As a child, part of me was frightened by this. I knew the dark and dirty desires that filled my mind, and I knew that a sinner like me would never be accepted into God’s club no matter how often I was told about the redemptive powers of Jesus’ blood. I knew I would come home one day and my family would be gone leaving me behind. Yet, another part of me was so fascinated by the apocalyptic tones of the tribulation, which seemed much more interesting than hanging in heaven with a bunch of believers. There were a series of Tribulation movies, starting with A Thief in the Night, that my church made us watch, full of evil government agents, car chases, mutants, and Christians getting beheaded on the guillotine. It was so full of adventure, as the newly converted Christians battled the minions of the anti-Christ, that I was almost convinced being left behind would have been cool. Thus began a life fascinated by apocalyptic novels and movies, at an almost obsessive level. At this point, I have easily read over 150 Post Apocalyptic novels and seen tons of movies. So, when I heard that Tom Perrotta was writing a novel with a secular take on a rapture like phenomena, I was excited. It was the epitome of the must read for me.
With all my excitement I really didn’t know what to expect with The Leftovers. Perrotta is known as a literary writer who tends to write novels with a dark comedic edge. So, I guess I was truly expecting a biting satire on the whole Left Behind culture. Yet, The Leftovers is so much more than that. While the apocalyptic novel has been done and overdone, Perrotta doesn’t truly offer us a tale of a physical apocalypse. There is no huge breakdown in society and government. We won’t find groups of survivors struggling to find food. What Perrotta has done is create and apocalypse of the soul. With millions of people just simply vanishing into thin air, those left behind must deal with the grief of losing immediate family members and friends, as well with a total shift in the structure of their world. Atheists must now contend with the idea that perhaps there is something more than the physical world, and believers must wonder why God has rejected them. Perrotta does offer some comedic images, a cultish like group who require smoking to remind people that the worlds days are numbered, and a former priest who finds it necessary to find scandalous information on the taken as proof that God did not rapture the righteous, and forget about him. Yet, even in the humor there is an underlining grief that permeates the entire book. Perrotta introduces his many characters through the mundane happenings of life, teenagers and college students struggling to find purpose in school., s grieving mother just trying to exist in a world full of reminders of her children and a town mayor who must deal with his wife‘s decision to join a cult, while figuring out how to fill out his favorite bars softball roster. Each character affects you in a different way and each paints their own skewed portrait of the changed world. The Leftover’s is brilliant in its simplicity, an intimate tale in a genre given to the overly complex world spanning plots, and creating a world where the true enemy isn’t some vast global conspiracy, but the lingering memories of those lost. The Leftovers is the true tale of those left behind.
The Leftovers was narrated by actor, and veteran narrator Dennis Boutsikaris. I have always like Boutsakaris’ vocal tone. He reads with a smooth baritone that is very easy to listen to. His reading comes off as simple and straightforward, but is full of inflection and rhythm that helps create the right mood that fits perfectly in with what the author is doing. Boutsikaris doesn’t do a lot with vocal characterization. Simple changes in the timber of his voice helps to differentiate the characters. While this may The Leftovers has a simple, straightforward prose, that is full of hidden complexities, and any type of overacting would have conflicted with its style. Boutsikaris narration allowed the situations and emotions of the characters come through. The Leftovers is a wonderful audio production and should bring together fans of apocalyptic fiction with those who just love a well written book.
Note: I received The Leftovers as a pre-released review copy from the good people of Macmillan Audio. The Leftovers can be preordered at Macmillan’s site, or at most online Booksellers.