I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
What if — whoosh, right now, with no explanation — a number of us simply vanished? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down? That's what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out. Because nothing has been the same since it happened — not marriages, not friendships, not even the relationships between parents and children.
Kevin Garvey, Mapleton's new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized community. Kevin's own family has fallen apart in the wake of the disaster: his wife, Laurie, has left to join the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence; his son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet named Holy Wayne. Only Kevin's teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she's definitely not the sweet "A" student she used to be. Kevin wants to help her, but he's distracted by his growing relationship with Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family on October 14th and is still reeling from the tragedy, even as she struggles to move beyond it and make a new start.
The premise of this book is excellent—an event somewhat like the Rapture happens and those “left behind” have to deal with loss and uncertainty. Especially since those who were taken are such a mixed bag: the Pope (natch), Vladimir Putin (huh!), Jennifer Lopez (?). Plenty of True Believers didn’t go anywhere and are plenty mad about it.
This was a wonderful bit of summer fluff reading—the whole book felt rather like a soap opera, following a number of people as they decided how the Sudden Departure is going to affect their lives. So it makes sense that the book is being turned into a television series. I actually think it will work better as a TV program than it does as a novel. Not that the novel doesn’t work, but to me it felt rather superficial—like the author had not lost anyone of great significance in his life (and he’s my age, so I wonder if that’s even possible in your mid-50’s?) I guess that’s my way of saying that I didn’t emotionally connect with these characters—I felt that they were an assortment of “types,” the good student-gone-bad, the wife with survivor’s guilt, the mayor trying to hold the town together, etc. I think that a decent actor will be able to give these characters some subtext and make me care a great deal more about them.
I do like Perrotta’s conceptions of some of the cults that might arise from such an event: Holy Wayne and his followers, the Barefoot People and the more sinister Guilty Remnant. Once again, I think that TV can do these groups more justice and, like the Dexter series, I think a team of writers will be able to take the plot in interesting directions that one author can’t dream up by his or her self.