The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta - review by Rowland Manthorpe

Rowland Manthorpe

Keep Hanging On

The Leftovers


Fourth Estate 355pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

‘What mostly struck her, reading the files, was how deceptively normal things seemed in Mapleton.’ Swap ‘deceptively’ for ‘boringly’ or ‘frustratingly’ and you have the whole story of this book. To set the scene: the world has been struck by a Rapture-like phenomenon, a supernatural mass abduction echoing the harvest of the faithful predicted in the Bible. One day, at the same moment, millions of people mysteriously vanish: ‘Jennifer Lopez, Shaq … Vladimir Putin and the Pope’, as well as – and this is the important point – many ‘ordinary’ Americans, including Laurie Garvey’s daughter’s best friend, Jen, spirited away ‘in the time it takes to click a mouse’.

It is an arresting premise. If they haven’t been taken by God, where have the vanished gone? No one saw them leave, and the generic small town of Mapleton is curiously free of CCTV. Forlorn missing-person notices cover telephone poles and supermarket corkboards. Yet if it is God, it is no God anyone can recognise. ‘An indiscriminate Rapture was no Rapture at all,’ and this one includes Jews, Muslims, even homosexuals (population in Mapleton: zero).

Despairing, Laurie leaves her family and joins the Guilty Remnant, a cult that believes the Rapture was a

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