Tom Perrotta on faith and The Leftovers

First aired on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (5/3/12)

The biblical Rapture. We all think we understand what that means. One day, God-fearing people will be taken to heaven to be with God, and the rest of us? Well, we have seven years to figure out where we went wrong and make it right. The Rapture has inspired several films and books, including the popular Left Behind series. The latest in this cultural canon, The Leftovers comes from successful writer Tom Perrotta, who made his career writing subversive and smart novels like Election and Little Children.

However, like all of Perrotta's work, The Leftovers has a twist. His "rapture" seems meaningless. "The people who are taken are apparently a random sample of humanity," he explained to George Stroumboulopoulos in a recent interview. "There's no religious framework through which people can understand what happened." Those who were left behind -- the titular "leftovers" -- struggle to make sense of what happened and, more important, why.

Perrotta believes he was drawn to this intense subject matter for two reasons. First, as an author, he's always been interested in "the everyday human experience." He sees faith as an attempt to understand the purpose of the seemingly ordinary, and his take on the Rapture "intensifies the basic human condition of not knowing. We never know, and that's the burden we live with."

Second, although Perrota may identify as agnostic, issues of faith have always fascinated him, and his interest intensified after the death of his father. The Leftovers is the second of two novels written after his father passed away, and both deal with understanding faith. "I've been very interested in the consolations offered by faith and what people gain by having faith and the struggles people have holding on to their faith."

While the issues Perrotta deals with are complex, he believes that what makes a story a good one is simple. "All good stories have a moral question at their heart."

Eating Dirt.jpgThe Leftovers
by Tom Perrotta

From the publisher:

"Through the prism of a single family, Perrotta illuminates a familiar America made strange by grief and apocalyptic anxiety. The Leftovers is a powerful and deeply moving book about people struggling to hold on to a belief in their own futures."

Read more at Random House of Canada.