Sunday, October 2, 2011

What I (Couldn't) Finish Reading: The Leftovers

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta has an interesting plotline: What would the world be like if one moment millions of people simply disappeared? Is it the rapture? Is it aliens? How would the survivors carry on?

That’s my type of story, where I believe the real truth is found in the details.

However, by the second chapter the actual disappearance and initial reaction is rushed through, with barely any development of characters or any chance for me to savor the oddity of the situation. The novel begins 1 year later (or so) and before I hit page 30, it’s skipped to 3 years later.

That was so frustrating. I really wanted to see this unfold. I wanted to immerse myself in the chaos of that time. Yet, I’m never given a chance.

Oh the writing (technique and style) were good. The imagery was sharp. But I couldn’t overcome the feeling that I walked in on a movie halfway through. While I was reading, my imagination kept going back to what might have happened, what might that first week been like when so many people vanish. I couldn’t focus on the author’s present because I yearned for more details of the past.

I suppose this was a conscious decision by Perrotta. Maybe this time frame was meant to push us forward. Yet, I can’t help but feel that it was an easy way out – sidestepping the emotionally turmoil by mere summarization. That’s not what I’m looking for.

I want the minutia. I need those tiny moments of an altered life. Then, and only then, can I feel invested in what comes next.

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