Title: Leave the World Behind
Author: Rumaan Alam
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: ~7.5 hours (241 pages)
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Recommended for fans of: pre-apocalyptic fiction
A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.
Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe.
Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple—and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another?
Suspenseful and provocative, Rumaan Alam’s third novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped—and unexpected new ones are forged—in moments of crisis.
This book will not be for everyone, but I thought it was incredible. Another review of this book introduced me to the term “pre-apocalyptic,” and that is exactly what this book is. It’s about the beginning of the end of the world, but it’s also about the mundanity of everyday life and how people react to disruptions to the status quo on both small and large scales.
A family is on vacation staying at an Airbnb. Then they lose Internet and cell service. Then an older black couple claiming to be the owners of the home unexpectedly arrive with news of a blackout in New York City. But that’s it. That’s all they know. And as the next few days unfold, the tension and uncertainty increase as the characters remain physically and technologically isolated from the rest of the world.
A lot of negative reviews of this book complain that nothing happens and there’s no resolution. That’s kind of the point. The reader is given a few hints about what might be going on in the world, but just like the characters, there is no certainty. A lot of what happens is eerie, unsettling, and even horrifying, but without the ability to access news about what is going on, the characters cling to normalcy as best as they can.
I listened to this audiobook the week of the elections, and it felt a little too real. I could relate to the characters’ frustration with the lack of connection to the outside world because I was constantly checking my phone for news about the results and I was so worried something would happen and I wouldn’t know. I don’t read a lot of literary fiction, but I loved the way this beautifully written book explored issues of psychology, race, wealth, technology, and human connection.
Thank you to Libro.fm and HarperAudio for the ALC.