A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!
Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award (Fiction)
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A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.
From the bestselling author of Rich and Pretty comes a suspenseful and provocative novel 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.
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 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 other?
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This terrifying novel is impossible to put down, especially on a chilly night. Clay and Amanda take their family to a luxe vacation home in the Hamptons, expecting rest and relaxation. But when another couple arrives to claim their home, things turn ominous as it becomes clear that something terrible is happening in the outside world. Novelist Rumaan Alam (That Kind of Mother) has never done this kind of dystopian psychological horror before, but the dark turn suits him. He matches his tense plot with a wonderfully disorienting writing style. Alam’s unnamed omniscient narrator constantly breaks the fourth wall, addressing us directly with snarky asides about the characters’ inner thoughts, whether it’s Clay’s disgust around his kids’ fast-food-induced flatulence or Amanda’s casual racism. The potentially apocalyptic events unfolding a few miles away in Manhattan add to the sense of dread. Leave the World Behind is a page-turning, spine-chilling, and thought-provoking read.
In Alam's spectacular and ominous latest (after That Kind of Mother), a family's idyllic summer retreat coincides with global catastrophe. Amanda and Clay, married white Brooklynites with two children, rent a secluded house in the Hamptons for a summer vacation. Their "illusion of ownership" is shattered when the house's proprietors, G.H. and Ruth, an African American couple in their 60s, show up unannounced from New York City. Widespread blackouts have hit the East Coast, and G.H. and Ruth are seeking refuge in the beach house they've rented out. The returned owners are greeted with polite suspicion and simmering resentment: "It was torture, a home invasion without rape or guns," thinks Amanda. G.H. and Ruth, in turn, can't help but wish their renters gone ("G. H.'s familiar old fridge yielded nothing but surprise. He'd not have filled it with such things"). But over a couple days, they form an uneasy collective as a series of strange and increasingly menacing events herald cataclysmic change, from migrating herds of deer to the thunder of military jets roaring overhead. The omniscient narrator occasionally zooms out to provide snapshots of the wider chaotic world that are effective in their brevity. Though information is scarce, the signs of impending collapse ecological and geopolitical have been glaringly visible to the characters all along: "No one could plead ignorance that was not willful." This illuminating social novel offers piercing commentary on race, class and the luxurious mirage of safety, adding up to an all-too-plausible apocalyptic vision.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Pretty good. Not Shirley Jackson but a decent try from a young author. Once you’ve finished it you can see its origin as a short story. Hardcover price is too high. Other reviewers mention The Stand. I’ll have to try that one.
I appreciated the writing even though it was frustratingly detailed at times. The book ends totally abruptly just as the plot is beginning to go somewhere with absolutely no final conclusion or resolution. The book seems half-finished which is a disappointment because the author had the right ingredients for a compelling story but just didn’t pull it together in the end.
Not a good ending
Had a good premise and a decent story but nothing was resolved in the Jan and just left you hanging. Felt like I had read half a book.