Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam, 5 Stars

There’s a special place in my heart for books that take me to an alternate reality and make me comfortable there, despite whatever the world there may be. And that’s what Leave the World Behind does.

I’ve seen the reviews from NPR, Time magazine and others. And everyone seems to agree. This is the perfect book for 2020. It just so perfectly captures the essence of completely not quite understanding or dismissing reality until it actually is reality and it’s commonplace.

There was a week in March when things in the world were changing so quickly that it was hard to keep up. And just when you thought it had gotten as bad as it could get, it got worse.

And eventually, I think we all gave up and we’ve been living in this purgatory ever since. Just dangling in the unknown, masking up whenever we leave the house and finding reasons to fight with strangers and family alike on social media and in grocery store lines.

It’s been a fun year. Here’s the thing though, there’s no guaranteed that 2021 will be any better. Fingers crossed?

From the Publisher:

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. 

My Review:

The book starts with Amanda and Clay heading to Long Island for a week of vacation. They haven’t gone far from their Brooklyn home, but far enough to feel like they are in a completely different world. They have rented a house, where they can stretch out and enjoy a different life from what they are used to in the city, if only for a week.

The first day goes well, normal vacation day. They wake up, pack a lunch, picnic at the beach and head back to make a lazy dinner in their rental home. The kids go to bed. And there’s a knock at the door.

Yes, Leave the World Behind, is the crowning novel that fits in so well in 2020, it’s a little scary. All the elements are there. We have normal life that all of a sudden, is anything but normal. We have racial tension. We have avoidance of what is really happening. We have denial. It’s all there.

To be clear, the story is not about a pandemic. I’m actually still not completely sure what it is about. And honestly, that’s part of the fun and I don’t want to give it away.

I basically read this book in one-sitting. It’s short enough to finish quickly, but long enough to leave you stunned, speechless, and yet completely accepting of the world that Alam creates. This one is out now. Check it out. You won’t be sorry.


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