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BKMT READING GUIDES
by Tom Perrotta
Paperback : 384 pages
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A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book for 2011
The New York Times bestseller now in paperback—A thought-provoking engrossing novel about love, connection, and loss from the author of The Abstinence Teacher and Little Children
What if your life was upended in an instant? What if your spouse or your child disappeared right in front of your eyes? Was it the Rapture or something even more difficult to explain? How would you rebuild your life in the wake of such a devastating event? These are the questions confronting the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a formerly comfortable suburban community that lost over a hundred people in the Sudden Departure. Kevin Garvey, the new mayor, wants to move forward, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized neighbors, even as his own family disintegrates. His wife, Laurie, has left him to enlist in the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence but haunt the town’s streets as “living reminders” of God’s judgment. His son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a crooked "prophet" who calls himself Holy Wayne. Only his teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she’s definitely not the sweet "A" student she used to be.
Through the prism of a single family, Perrotta illuminates a familiar America made strange by grief and apocalyptic anxiety. The Leftovers is a powerful and deeply moving book about regular people struggling to hold onto a belief in their futures.
Editorial ReviewNo editorial review at this time.
IT WAS A GOOD DAY for a parade, sunny and unseasonably warm, the sky a Sunday school cartoon of heaven. Not too long ago, people would have felt the need to make a nervous crack about weather like this—Hey, they’d say, maybe this global warming isn’t such a bad thing after all!—but these days no one bothered much about the hole in the ozone layer or the pathos of a world without polar bears. It seemed almost funny in retrospect, all that energy wasted fretting about something so remote and uncertain, an ecological disaster that might or might not come to pass somewhere way off in the distant future, long after you and your children and your children’s children had lived out your allotted time on earth and gone to wherever it was you went when it was all over. ... view entire excerpt...
Discussion Questions1. Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers focuses on life after a mysterious mass disappearance that may or may not have been the Rapture. How do the various characters feel about being “left behind?” Which character's view of the Sudden Departure makes most sense to you?
2. The Leftovers is set in an idyllic American suburbia—with adult softball teams, a strong school system, and beautiful leafy neighborhoods. Why do you think the author set this novel –and his other novels--in such a place? Is there something especially pleasant or idyllic about the suburbs? Or is that just a myth?
3. Jill Garvey thinks it’s easy “to romanticize the missing, to pretend that they were better than they really were.” Is this true? How do the main characters in The Leftovers view their friends and relatives who have disappeared?
4. How do you feel about Christine’s relationship with Mr. Gilchrist? Is she simply a victim of a predatory, charismatic older man who dupes her into thinking she’s someone special? Or is something more complicated going on between them?
5. Why do you think Laurie Garvey joins the Guilty Remnant? Once there, why do you think she stays? What sort of benefits might a cult-like community offer to people reeling from an event like the Sudden Departure? What about the Healing Hug Movement led by Holy Wayne?
6. What do you think of the teenagers’ sexual interactions in the book? Are they an accurate portrayal of contemporary teenage behavior? To what exent are Jill and her friends reacting to the trauma of the Sudden Departure, if at all?
7. Is Kevin Garvey a good father?
8. How would you describe the relationship between Laurie and Meg? Did you find what happens to them believable? What about the relationship between Kevin and Nora?
9. Like The Road and The Passage and many others, The Leftovers is set in a post-apocalyptic world. Why are we so fascinated by these scenarios? What sets The Leftovers apart from other novels about the end of life as we know it?
10. Perrotta describes some sectors of American society—such as television chefs—being “disproportionately hard hit” by the Sudden Departure. Is there any sector you wish could disappear?
11. What do you think the author’s opinion of religion is? What about spirituality? Are there clues in The Leftovers?
12. Discuss the ending of the book. What do you think happens to the main characters after the book is over?
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