I need to get this out of the way: LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND by Rumaan Alam scared the shit out of me! Never have I felt so unsettled by a book! This story burrowed a worm hole into my brain and I cannot stop thinking about it.
An upper middle class white family rents a luxurious vacation home in remote Long Island. Their idyllic vacation is interrupted when the older, wealthy, black homeowners show up late one night claiming that something terrible happened in NYC so they came to their country home for shelter and safety. The unnamed catastrophe – is it a terrorist attack? climate disaster? nuclear bomb? just a blackout? – brings the two families together to explore issues of race, class, generational differences, family, and calls into question the illusion of safety we all live with. That’s all I’ll say because I strongly believe that for a book like this it’s best to just strap yourself in and go along for the thrilling ride!
LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND really messed with my head. The combination of Alam’s lush prose and absolutely perfect pacing with a completely bizarre yet totally plausible apocalyptic event created an ominous fever dream of a book! The reader is given a view into the character’s heads so we see and experience their fears, thought-processes, and moral deficiencies. At the same time, the story includes random glimpses into the chaos occurring elsewhere in the world, which brilliantly adds suspense by providing more information but no answers.
Rarely does a book hit me in such a visceral way. LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND is a provocative thriller and is completely of our moment – it definitely stoked my pandemic nightmares! LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND is longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for fiction and Netflix bought the film rights (cast will include Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts) so you know you have to read it! But aside from all that, it’s completely absorbing, totally unsettling, and an overall excellently crafted novel that explores big societal and human issues.
** Ecco provided the book for honest review.
- Title: Leave the World Behind
- Author: Rumaan Alam
- Published: October 6, 2020 (Ecco)
- Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * * *