Monday, September 10, 2012
Audiobook Review: The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta
Centering on the Garvey family, this is exactly the landscape Tom Perrotta sets out to explore in The Leftovers, a stunning (if not entirely successful) portrayal of how we cope with the inexplicable. Kevin Garvey, town mayor, wants to speed up the healing process for those who lost loved ones, while his wife turns to a newly grown cult and takes a vow of silence and cigarettes. His son has dropped out of college and fallen in with a tedious and somewhat shady "prophet" named Holy Wayne, while his daughter turns away from the straight-A student she used to be in favor of a rebellious, punkish teenager.
What is so striking about The Leftovers is the sheer normalcy of the Garveys' issues despite the extraordinary situation in which they find themselves: two married people growing in different directions, or coping with hardship in varied ways; the rebellious teenagers struggling to make names for themselves while trying to understand how to remain part of a family; the trials of teenage love and uncertainty.
Despite Perrotta's success in conveying the normalcy of the abnormal, however, and the myriad ways in which we deal with grief and loss, The Leftovers ultimately fell flat for me. Dennis Boutsikaris' narration on audio carries the plot forward with a steady, plodding momentum that makes it hard to stop listening, but the story itself proved unbelievable, at times forced, and finally disappointing. There is brilliance and insight in small parts here, but the sum of these parts didn't quite add up to anything. I kept waiting for it to happen, without ever knowing what "it" was; "it" never did.
I've read a lot of great reviews for this one, and I really wanted to love it. Maybe I'm not just a great audience for Perrotta, or maybe I read this one at a bad time. Have you read it? What did you think? Am I just missing something - or was audio perhaps a bad choice of format?
Thoughts from other bookworms:
Devourer of Books
Coffee and a Book Chick
The New Dork Review of Books
You might also like:
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
The Leftovers | Tom Perrotta, nar. Dennis Boutsikaris | Macmillan Audio | Audio CD | August 2011 | Buy from an independent near you