A man wakes up from a coma to find he must relearn the use of his body and mind, and that due to the nature of his accident, he has won a settlement and is now a millionaire.
Unable to reconnect with his old friends (one of whom suggests he use his money to live like a rock star; another advising that he donate to a vague charitable organization in Africa), McCarthy’s nameless anti-hero becomes obsessed with recreating his clearest memory: a seemingly meaningless vision of a crack in a wall, accompanied by the sound of someone practicing piano, and the smell of cooking meat wafting through an open window, while
black cats prowl around on a red roof next door.
He meets Naz, a highly analytical mind-for-hire, who appreciates the unique challenge of the project to the extent that he never asks about the reasoning behind it. Naz hires architects, actors, interior designers, landscapers and hundreds of others until the live recreation is complete — which leads to more visions, which the hero demands be reconstructed and re-enacted, which in turn…
Determined to leave his body (the eponymous “remainder”) behind and merge with the infinite, the protagonist funds the reenactment of drive-by shootings, setting the stage for death again and again, enjoying a surge of elation whenever he takes the victims place and sees flashing before his eyes the last physical things they would have seen.
The story is a romance between man and non-being, the narrative bloodless and elegant as a set of blueprints. McCarthy’s John Doe is obsessed with pinpointing the moment between life and death when everyday objects become sacred relics simply because they exist at a time and place where a death occurs.
The story would be an obnoxious faux-gothic bore if it weren’t for the clinical narrative, which never becomes tawdry, self-pitying or preachy. It simply relates the story of a man obsessed with capturing the eternal moment. Also, it’s a great answer to the question: What would you do if you had a million dollars?