2 out of 5 Stars
My rating (if books were movies): R
The premise of this book is that the Rapture, or at least a Rapture-like event, has occurred. This is very secular and in fact the characters are never actually sure if it is the Rapture that happened and it is referred to by those left behind as The Sudden Departure. However, since this book is supposed to sort of poke fun at the Left Behind series we can pretty much deduce that it is the Rapture that happened. The author, however, seems to be pretty confused about what exactly the Rapture is and what's supposed to happen. He takes a lot of poetic license here. For one, it seems that just random people are "taken". Gays, Buddhists, Atheists, etc. Some children are taken and some are left behind. So, this amounts to a lot of confusion on the part of those Christians that were left behind. In fact, there's a pastor who's so hurt to have been left behind by the God he's dedicated his life's work too, that he starts up a newsletter with information about the people taken and all the horrible things they did while they were alive to prove that this couldn't have possibly been the Rapture.
The book centers around the main character Kevin. Kevin is a middle-aged suburban dad. He has a pretty good life and a great family. A pretty wife, a son in college, and an intelligent high school-age daughter. Kevin was pretty successful selling liquor stores and was able to retire early in life. After The Sudden Departure he is elected mayor of the town of Mapleton, where most of this story takes place. No one in Kevin's family was taken, however they were never a religious family so this is no big surprise. However, all Hell breaks loose after this shocking event. His wife joins a cult named The Guilty Remnant and takes a vow of silence, smokes cigarettes (this is part of the cults criteria), and only wears white. She moves in to a group home for the cult and cuts all ties with her family and friends. His daugher moves in her loose BFF named Aimee who Kevin finds he has feelings for which he tries hard to suppress. His once very straight-and-narrow daughter shaves her head and flunks her classes. She starts drinking and doing drugs. His son in college becomes a devout follower of a prophet of The Healing Hug Movement named Holy Wayne. Holy Wayne is like a mixture of Deepak Chopra and Warren Jeffs. After Holy Wayne is imprisoned on charges involving sex with minors, the son is stuck with one of Holy Wayne's child brides, a 16-year-old, pregnant Asian child-bride with a major attitude problem named Christine. They disguise themselves as Barefoot People, a Hippie group that sprung up after The Sudden Departure, in order to travel across the country without the authorities recognizing Christine as one of Holy Wayne's wives.
The weird thing about this book was that I never really felt like continuing to read it and I never could gather much care or concern for the characters. Just when I thought I'd cared, it was lost again. I'm not really sure why my reading experience was like this. The book was decent enough. It wasn't bad. I think I thought it'd be more humorous, I thought there'd be more laugh-out-loud moments. Alas, there were none. The description of the book certainly sounds hilarious. There's things that could be considered funny, but they're not executed in a "ha-ha" kind of way. Everything is just very matter-of-fact. Almost like a report of events for a magazine article. Possibly this is just the authors writing style. The author didn't give very much details about what really happened that day and he didn't mention any ill-effects from so many people departing the planet so rapidly. One can safely assume that this would cause major chaos. But, the only downside to The Sudden Departure in this book, other than the emotional effects, was that Kevin's softball team might have to go co-ed in order to replace it's lost members. Wow. Bummer. This book isn't at all dystopian (though I did read it for my Dystopia-Apocalypse reading list) so if you're expecting a thriller you won't find it 'round these parts. This book is very mundane, very pedestrian. This book is more about the emotional trauma the characters are dealing with. This book is more about grieving those both dead and alive. It's a book about loss. One character in particular, Nora. Her story is amazing and I loved her as a character. She's very troubled after the loss of her children and the only thing that keeps her sane is watching episodes of Spongebob. This is how she grieves for her loss children. She basically become a recluse, but her story is amazing. She was my favorite person to read about. I think the author did a great job at portraying both male and female characters and of all ages and places in life