'The Leftovers' Book Version of Kevin Garvey Has a Much Happier Ending... Well, Sort Of
Rarely has the protagonist of a novel been so drastically altered in the course of an adaptation as Kevin Garvey on HBO's The Leftovers . The series is adapted from Tom Perrotta's book The Leftovers, and if book-Kevin and show-Kevin met on the street, chances are the two men wouldn't even recognize each other. The mild-mannered mayor that author Perrotta crafted for his post-Rapture novel has been transformed by showrunner Damon Lindelof into Justin Theroux's unbalanced, tattooed police chief. As the show approaches the final two episodes of its freshman season, we naturally want to look to the source material for clues on what might happen to poor, crazy Kevin Garvey — but do the events of the novel may have little bearing on a character who may as well have been invented from scratch.
But that won't stop us from seeking answers in Perrotta's novel. So what does happen to Kevin on the page? Does he get arrested for kidnapping Patti after she kills herself in the cabin? Is he actually going crazy? Is his dad a prophet?
What's that you say? None of that happened in the book? That's right — instead of consorting with a known dog-murderer and suffering the occasional blackout, book-Kevin was going on Valentine's Day dates and playing minor league softball games. Sounds pretty tame in comparison, doesn't it?
That's not to say that everything about Kevin is different. In the novel, all of his central relationships are the same: His wife Laurie left him for the Guilty Remnant; his son Tom left to follow Holy Wayne; his daughter Jill is a mournful teen who spends all her time with her rebellious friend Aimee. Kevin even meets Nora Durst at a town dance, and eventually the two start dating. All that sounds fairly copacetic so far.
But then Nora asks Kevin to go on vacation to Florida with her. Though surprised by her forwardness, Kevin agrees. When they get back, their relationship has become serious — although Kevin makes a big mistake on Valentine's Day when he breaks one of their unspoken rules and starts talking about his family. This makes things uncomfortable for the still-grieving Nora, who dumps Kevin by ditching the date while he's in the bathroom. Whoops.
When Laurie serves Kevin divorce papers, it helps him refocus his life. He starts paying more attention to Jill, who recently witnessed the murder of a GR member. He resolves to never be alone with Aimee, with whom he's been teetering on the edge of a dangerous flirtation. And he finds solace for his loneliness by playing softball with his friends. All in all, a pretty tame resolution for the story's protagonist, when compared to the hallucinations, violence, and pain that show-Kevin has been through.
But Perrotta had one last surprise for his Kevin. After Nora breaks up with him, she dyes her hair, changes her identity, and prepares to leave Mapleton for good. She stops by Kevin's house to drop off a note explaining why she left, but when she gets there she finds a baby on his front porch. Although she doesn't know who the infant is, it's actually Holy Wayne's son, who Tom dropped off for his father to take care of after Christine abandoned both him and her own child. So when Kevin arrives home from his softball game, he finds a very literally changed Nora waiting for him, with a seemingly miraculous baby in her arms. "Look what I found," she tells him. It's the last sentence of the book.
Right now, it seems impossible that the Leftovers series will end on such an understated and hopeful note. The season seems to be building towards a climactic and violent confrontation between the Guilty Remnant and the citizens of Mapleton — a confrontation which Kevin will undoubtedly find himself in the middle of. But HBO has renewed The Leftovers for a second season (thank god), so even if this finale doesn't end well for Chief Garvey, there's still a chance he could find peace with Nora and Wayne's child somewhere down the line. Perhaps a new family is exactly what Kevin needs to turn off the crazy and heal the wounds of the real family that abandoned him.
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