Sunday, October 7, 2012
Audioreview: The Leftovers
2 Stars - Recommended Lightly to readers who are already familiar with (and know they enjoy) Tom Perrotta's stuff
Audio Download (8 CD's; approx. 10 hrs)
Publisher: St. Martin's / Macmillian
I should have known better. I really should have known. One of TNBBC's first group reads was Tom Perrotta's The Abstinence Teacher. And against all my better judgement, I read it along with the group and ended up disliking it immensely. It was a little too preachy for my taste, for starters. The title was really quite misleading - I was expecting to read a book about a teacher who was getting grief over their choice of sex-ed curriculum, which is bad enough, but instead I got a book that talked about Soccer and dating and made me want to claw my face off - and the writing was a little too formulaic.
Funny, and not surprising, that I disliked The Leftovers for very similar reasons. Perrotta is nothing if not consistent. The title, and blurb, would have you thinking that this is a book about a rapture-like event - what Tom's characters refer to as the "Sudden Departure" - and the lives of those who are left behind. And you'd be somewhat right. But my issue with the novel lies more in what I was expecting those lives to look like, I suppose. Instead of the "Sudden Departure" kicking off a series of plagues and world wars and bringing the antichrist to light (I blame The Left Behind series for this!), we find ourselves milling around the sleepy little town of Mapleton, where some people have decided to quit what's left of their families and join the silent "Guilty Remnant" group, and others quit bathing and travel around as Barefoot People, and others still follow a self-professed prophet named Holy Wayne. The rest, well, they get back to life as usual. And what boring, vanilla lives they are.
So nothing more gets said about where these people just vanished away to. Sure, those who are left behind mourn the missing, and pine for them, and talk about them from time to time, but the event itself seems to fade away and becomes less than the sound of static in the background. And it was really kind of frustrating for me... listening to the audio on my drive back and forth to work, I kept pleading with the discs to bring the event back and get off of the boring ole lives of Mayor Kevin and his estranged wife Laurie, who became a member of the Guilty Remnant. I couldn't find it in myself to care about Kevin's teenage daughter Jill, who shaved her head and starting hanging with a rougher crowd, or his son who was driving around the country escorting Holy Wayne's pregnant girlfriend to a safe-house, or Kevin's own horribly uncomfortable attempts at dating Nora, a woman who lost her entire family on that fateful day. I was, however, DYING to know what the hell happened on October 14th when tons of people just up and disappeared.
Oh. My. God. Please. Make. Something. Happen. Before. I. Scream. This is what I found myself thinking over and over and over as I continued to place each disc into the cd player of my car. Please. Please. Please. And then suddenly, I was on the last disc, and the story just fucking ended. No resolution to anything. Everything just left hanging out there, blowing around in the breeze. If I had been reading the print copy, I would have thought for sure that the publisher forgot to include the final pages. And of course, I went on mini tweet rage about it:
THE LEFTOVERS should come with a Reader Warning.
WARNING: THIS BOOK CONTAINS LOOSE ENDS. SO MANY, IN FACT, THAT YOU'LL WANT TO PUNCH IT IN ITS FACE.
or this: WARNING: THIS BOOK USES 'THE SUDDEN DEPARTURE' AS A PLOT DEVICE BUT IS REALLY JUST ABOUT A STUPID GROUP OF MAPLETONS.
The writing still feels as though it came out of a can, too. It's like "How to Write a Book 101". There wasn't much passion or feeling in his sentences. It felt clinical, sterile, and again, quite vanilla. Not that there's anything wrong with clinical, sterile, vanilla things - if you're in a doctor's office, say, or eating at a restaurant, you know? But I don't want my literature to be clinical and sterile. To feel as though it was written by a non-human, incredibly robotic, emotionless thing.
Though I suppose I should thank Tom for sparing me the preachy, christian interludes. I really appreciated that!