I haven’t always been very clued in about new releases so when Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers came out in 2011, I was totally oblivious. Luckily for me, I was invited by Random House Canada to attend an advanced screening of HBO Canada’s show of the same name (premiering this Sunday the 29th – tomorrow!) this past week so I, being one of those people who prefer to read the book before its movie/show comes out, went and bought a copy of the book so I would be prepared for the screening. (Please note that my invitation to the event does not affect how I feel about the novel or show.)
The Leftovers starts with us learning that something terrible has happened. On October 14th, a Rapture-like event happened, wiping out millions of people all over the world. Where did everyone go? It was as if they had all vanished into thin air. But this wasn’t the Rapture – everyone was a victim, from non-believers to believers – so instead, the incident is referred to as the Sudden Departure. Everyone is grieving and confused in their own way and because there is no way for “the leftovers” to fully understand what happened, it’s taking a long time for the grief to subside. The book and the show is set in the city of Mapleton where we find a variety of characters trying to get on with their lives. In the center of the novel is the Garvey family and Nora Durst. Though no one in the Garvey household was taken away, the absence of their neighbours and friends are greatly felt. Each Garvey (Kevin, Laurie, and children Tom and Jill) is affected in a different way and their coping mechanisms are wildly different. In contrast, Nora Durst lost everyone during the Sudden Departure; her husband and children were among those who disappeared. Nora is understandably distressed, and she is haunted by the Sudden Departure every day. So how does a community move on when so many of its citizens are mourning?
This is a fundamental question posed in The Leftovers. We are introduced to quite a few characters and each of them has their own issues and ways of dealing with their losses. If I had to summarize this book in a sentence, I would say that it’s an exploration of grief and how we attempt to help each other when hard times arise.
As compelling as the characters and events are in the book, I kept feeling like I didn’t “get” it. It’s a fascinating story and plot in terms of sociology and psychology, but I wonder if the novel has anything to say. Is it that time heals all wounds (or at least makes them more bearable)? Is it to prove that sadness can lead us to do extreme things sometimes? The novel left me wanting a little bit more from the story. For this reason, I’m extremely excited that the novel has been adapted to a show – from what I’ve seen it’s going to be able to add a whole different layer to the story and I cannot wait to see how the show explores these themes. Plus, the book is full of dramatic, cinematic moments and I cannot wait to see them all unfold on screen.
The Leftovers trailer on Youtube courtesy of HBO
What I really enjoyed about the pilot episode was its ability to capture the essence of the book and evoke a solemn, desperate, and chaotic mood. It was also comedic at times, and this brings a lightness to an otherwise serious show. I truly believe that this show is going to breathe new life to the novel and add a secondary layer to the story. I’m hoping that the questions I had about the novel will be answered by watching the show and, honestly, after seeing the first episode I have very high hopes. Plus, I have not been disappointed by HBO yet; they always manage to produce high quality, entertaining, and thought-provoking shows. I think this will be no different. Looking for more reasons to watch the show? Reeder Reads has a brilliant article listing 10 reasons you should start watching HBO’s The Leftovers. PS. See if you can spot Tom Perrotta in the pilot – he has a brief cameo!
Now – the fun! I received a copy of The Leftovers to give away from the always generous Random House Canada and, because Tom Perrotta was at the advanced screening, the book I’m giving away is signed. So for those of you who would prefer to read the book before watching the show, here’s your chance!
Have you read The Leftovers? What did you think? Will you be watching the show? I know I will and I would highly recommend it!
1. No purchase necessary
2. Open to residents of Canada only
3. Please do not cheat on the tasks, I will be checking them once a winner has been chosen
4. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again. I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
5. Have fun and good luck!