Eat, Drink, Read: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

What would you do if the rapture really happened? That's the question posed in this heartening satire reviewed by Rhoda Janzen. Pair the novel, with—what else?—a recipe for last night's leftovers

Reviewed by Rhoda Janzen; recipe by Moira Hodgson
theleftoverstomperrotta
Photograph: Levi Brown

Between the Covers
How do you rebuild your life after a global disaster? Just before Perrotta’s unsettling story begins, millions of people all over the earth vanish without a trace. But this isn’t the Rapture of prophecies and tracts. There’s a disturbingly random twist. -Upstanding Christians have disappeared (as expected), but so have Jews, Muslims, atheists and unrepentant sinners. Racked with insecurity, guilt and fear, those who remain must find a way to carry on in the aftermath of the Sudden Disappearance.

The Leftovers focuses on one suburban family, the Garveys, who are struggling to adjust to a radically different world. Laurie, the mother, runs off to join a cult whose members have taken a vow of silence and who chain-smoke as a testimony to the brevity of life. Her gregarious husband, Kevin, an ex–high school football star, tries to lift the town’s spirits—and his own—in his new role as mayor. Meanwhile, their teenage daughter, Jill, joins a group of potheads, and Tom, their son, drops out of college to follow the newly minted guru Holy Wayne, founder of the Healing Hug Movement and a self-declared “sponge for pain.”

Perrotta’s gift is his ability to infuse satire with warmth, to find significance in the absurd. It’s easy to mock extreme forms of religious expression. It’s harder to find their meaning and their application. Perrotta does both in this rich and oddly reassuring read.

Recipe
LEFTOVER-LAMB PILAF

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

Good with Pinot Gris or rosé Makes 4 main-dish servings

About 1½ cups leftover roast leg of lamb
Generous pinch saffron
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and diced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1½ cups basmati rice
½ cup raisins
¾ cup toasted slivered almonds
½ cup chopped fresh mint
1 cup plain yogurt

1. Slice the lamb into strips about 1 inch long and ¼ inch wide, removing any gristle or fat. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in ½ cup warm water.

2. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a medium-size heavy casserole. Brown the lamb for 3 to 4 minutes; remove to a platter. Adding a little more oil to the casserole if necessary, sauté the onion, garlic and chiles until the onion is soft. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the cumin, coriander and cardamom. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to burn the spices.

3. Add the rice, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes over moderate heat, stirring. Add the saffron with its water and the raisins. Stir well, then add the amount of water as directed on the package of rice, allowing for the ½ cup saffron water. Stir, bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

4. Stir in the lamb. Sprinkle with almonds and mint. Pass the yogurt, to be spooned on top.—MOIRA HODGSON

First Published July 28, 2011

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