The Eerie Aftermath of a Mass Exit

From The New York Times:

King Perrotta has delivered a troubling disquisition on how ordinary people react to extraordinary and inexplicable events, the power of family to hurt and to heal, and the unobtrusive ease with which faith can slide into fanaticism. “The Leftovers” is, simply put, the best “Twilight Zone” episode you never saw — not “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” but “The Monsters Are Us in Mapleton.” That they are quiet monsters only makes them more eerie. The Garvey family — Kevin, Laurie and their two children, Tom and Jill — are the Mapleton residents at the center of Perrotta’s novel, which opens three years after a rapturelike event has whisked millions of people off the face of the earth. Just how many millions Perrotta doesn’t specify, but it can’t have been too many, because the phones still work and Starbucks still dispenses coffee by the grande. Nor do all (or even most) of the missing qualify as Camping-style Christians; those raptured away include Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and the odd alcoholic. When Tom Garvey pledges a fraternity at Syracuse, one of the brothers tells him about a rapturee from Alpha Tau Omega: “He kept a hidden camera in his bedroom . . . used to tape the girls, . . . then show the videos down in the TV room. One girl was so humiliated she had to leave school. Good old Chip didn’t care.”

The rapture’s failure to conform to biblical prophecy has driven some people plumb over the edge. The Rev. Matt Jamison becomes chief among the rapture deniers of the remaining Mapleton population: “He wept frequently and kept up a running monologue about . . . how unfair it was that he’d missed the cut.” The minister’s response to this unfairness is to insist this wasn’t the real rapture, and to prove it with a news­letter full of scurrilous tittle-­tattle about the disappeared. Other survivors go over the edge in different ways. The Barefoot People (young Tom Garvey eventually becomes one) believe the proper response to the mass disappearances is to party down pretty much 24/7. There’s a Healing Hug movement, led by a guru named Holy Wayne whom Perrotta memorably characterizes as “that age-old scoundrel, the Horny Man of God.” The Huggers are waiting for one of Holy Wayne’s teenage “brides” to deliver the “miracle child” who will, presumably, usher in a new age of cosmic grooviness.

More here.