I finished listening to this audiobook today. It’s odd comparing it to the HBO show. Now I feel that the HBO drama added a load of mystical junk to a basic story in order to ensure a second season. None of the mysterious voices, rabid dogs, or even a lot of the violence is in the book. The book is more of an examination of what happens in a little town when a disaster takes away 20% of the population. In this case, the disaster is the rapture.
This rapture is not a Christian rapture. During the course of the book, we learn that much of the consternation (in america at least) is caused by the fact that the percentage of missing people was chosen completely randomly. Some were good people; others were known adulterers. Some were troubled celebrities and some where infants.
Without all of the mystical mumbo-jumbo that the tv series picked up, the book is a more nuanced metaphor of what happens to a town after a widespread disaster. Some families splinter. Multiple cults are born. As time passes, they are forced to redefine themselves. (As Christianity had to do itself.) Teenagers flounder and life moves on. In many ways, it reminded me of watching life change in New Orleans after Katrina.
At times, I felt as if I was slogging through this book. It is an snapshot of normal life. The characters are living in extraordinary circumstances, but dinner still has to be made. Women go on dates that are sometimes boring. Teenage girls make plays for their friend’s father. I am not a fan of books about ordinary life. In the end, I felt that the author did capture the feeling of brokenness that loss creates and the effort that it takes to move on. Even the two cults that form to anticipate the final pages of Revelations are forced to evolve when years pass without more change.
As an aside, there are some things that the HBO drama did well. Their cast is more multi-racial even though the major viewpoint characters are white. The race of the characters in the book are seldom addressed. America’s standard racial default for novels is white unless you are told otherwise, so I am going to assume that all of Perrotta’s characters are white. Cheers for HBO to make the leap of understanding that nothing in the book requires that the town is mono-racial. There is one instance in the book when race is mentioned—one male character preys on teenage asian women—and that was retained by the tv series.