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Where Has Everybody Gone?

New Jersey native Tom Perrotta's new novel The Leftovers imagines what happens after the Rapture.

Posted August 15, 2011 by Joel Keller

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The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Courtesy of publisher.

Imagine that one day a large percentage of the world’s population disappeared without a trace. How would life go on for those still on Earth? Garwood native Tom Perrotta, author of the best-selling novels Election and Little Children, explores this scenario in his new novel, The Leftovers (St. Martin’s Press).

Perrotta takes readers to the fictional northeast town of Mapleton a few months after an event suggesting a religious Rapture occurs across the globe, with people from all walks of life vanishing without explanation. Through the lens of one hollowed-out family, Perrotta explores the ways people react to this mysterious and devastating occurrence. Some characters join loosely formed cults, some try to pick up and move on, others are so distraught that they can’t seem to function. Perotta tells the story from multiple perspectives, with the point of view often shifting from chapter to chapter.

“The event that I chose only deepens the mysteries in people’s lives,” Perrotta says of his subject matter. “Instead of clarifying who’s good and who’s evil, the way that the biblical Rapture does, this one only intensifies feelings of doubt and bewilderment.”

Factors in the author’s inspiration include the shared tragedy of 9/11, but also the uncertainty generated by the more recent Great Recession. “There’s just that moment when you can suddenly imagine that the very foundations of this culture that seems so strong could be shaken,” he says.


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