Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Imagine that a person you are talking to just vaporizes. Or, maybe you turn your head to look at something on the television, and your whole family disappears. When this bizarre phenomenon happens all over the world – when millions of people vanish without reason or explanation – those left behind are the ones who are confused, grief-stricken, and, in some cases, without purpose. What makes things even more confusing for those left behind is the people are now gone were a mix of good and bad, religious and secular, young and old. In other words, there was no rapture, no plague, and no warning, which makes the leftovers struggling to find meaning in a world that no longer makes sense.
Some who are left behind join religious cults, like the Guilty Remnant, whose members take a vow of silence, chain smoke cigarettes, and try to ready themselves and others for another Sudden Departure. Others try to make a difference in their community, like new mayor Kevin Garvey. Others seem lost in their grief, like Nora Durst, who lost her whole family and entire reason for living. Reverend Jamison, on the other hand, is so enraged about being passed over that he has started researching those taken away and publishing their sins in hateful pamphlets just to prove that the Rapture has not happened yet. Even though only 87 people in this small New Jersey town disappeared, those left behind will never be the same.
I found this novel to be richly ironic, sometimes confusing, and very compelling. The premise is quite fascinating: how do ordinary people cope in extraordinary situations? In most cases, they cope by acting out in some way, or making drastic changes in their lives, or hurting the ones they love most. Even though the tone is uneven and borders on comic, the characters carry the plot as they struggle to live through a most perplexing and unsettling time. Although I enjoyed this novel, I couldn’t get past one woman’s story: even though she lost neither her husband nor her two children, she felt compelled to leave them anyway and join the Guilty Remnant, for no reason that is ever explained. This really bugged me.
Other novels by this author:
The Wishbones (1997)
Joe College (2000)
Little Children (2004)
The Abstinence Teacher (2007)
Other titles you may enjoy:
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (2009)
When a natural disaster predicted by God's Gardeners leader Adam One obliterates most human life, two survivors trapped inside respective establishments that metaphorically represent paradise and hell wonder if any of their loved ones have survived.
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist (2009)
Assigned to the Unit to submit to testing and eventual organ donation and death, Dorrit Weger accepts her fate as a single woman over the age of fifty until she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love.
Ghost by Alan Lightman (2007)
Three months after being unexpectedly fired from his banking job, David takes a temporary position at a local mortuary, where he experiences an inexplicable encounter with the unknown that transforms his relationships with everyone around him.