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Leave the World Behind

by Rumaan Alam

Part of the High/Low Series

Book Club Recommendations Dystopian Fiction Family Drama Sharing Diverse Voices Star Books Thriller and Suspense

LoveReading View on Leave the World Behind

Our December 2020 Book Club Recommendation

Set in a future that feels as though it really could be just around the corner, this eloquent, intense, and chilling novel merges literary psychological thriller with dystopian apocalyptic fiction. A family from New York rent a luxurious and peaceful getaway, when the owners of the house return in a panic due to a power outage in the city which has also knocked out the TV and internet at the home, an uneasy truce settles. Whilst huge in scope, this is actually an achingly intimate novel and it creates an atmosphere that slid into my thoughts and thoroughly ruffled my equilibrium. Rumaan Alam sets the scene with a thoroughness that is almost poetic as he points out the ridiculous and highlights the irrelevant. The characters are almost touchable, awkward moments hum with intensity, points are made, thoughts shuffle. This LoveReading Star Book doesn’t shriek or clamour, answers lie hidden, which somehow makes the story even more unnerving. Touching family, race, and human nature in the most precarious of moments, Leave The World Behind is an incredibly penetrating and surprising read. 

Liz Robinson

Leave the World Behind Synopsis

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 to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a holiday: 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 with a late-night knock on the door, the spell is broken. Ruth and G. H., an older couple who claim to own the home, have arrived there in a panic. These strangers say that a sudden power outage has swept the city, and - with nowhere else to turn - they have come to the country in search of shelter.

But with the TV and internet down, and no phone service, the facts are unknowable. Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple - and vice versa? What has happened back in New York? Is the holiday home, isolated from civilisation, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another?

Leave the World Behind Press Reviews

Stupendously good . . . Simply breathtaking, full of moments of exquisite recognition, as terrifying and prescient as Cormac McCarthy's The Road . . . Leave the World Behind is an extraordinary book, at once smart, gripping and hallucinatory . . . When future generations (if that term doesn't sound over-optimistic at the moment) want to know what it was like to live through the nightmare of 2020, this is the novel they'll reach for - Observer

Would be resonant and terrifying even in a more normal year . . . In his dazzling prose, his fascination with catastrophe and his apparent ability to portend the future, Alam is a worthy descendant of Don DeLillo . . . You will probably need to read it in as close to one sitting as possible - Sunday Times

A sensation . . . A tense, atmospheric, splendidly written attempt to grapple with impending doom ... Even in its infancy, Leave the World Behind was well poised to become the book of an era . . . A striking, unsettling novel - Independent

For the reader, the invisible terror outside in Leave the World Behind echoes the sense of disquiet today in a world convulsed by the pandemic. There are intense parallels between the unreality of life in the Long Island bolt-hole described in the book and lockdown . . . The novel excels in its dissection of modern liberal America and forces the reader to confront the limits of their own heroism in the face of disaster - Financial Times

A book that could have been tailor-made for our times, with its tale of racial tensions and an unnatural disaster . . . It's a close-up narrative, and its strength lies in the emotional pull . . . There's something for everyone: that is, to terrify everyone, from parents to nature lovers to hypochondriacs - The Times

A page-turner, taking in themes of isolation, race and class . . . As the author of a book about people trapped inside a house by a huge event, desperate for information, Alam is a curious prophet . . . Alam has an almost anthropological eye for the absurdities of the upper-middle class, for the blindness of white people . . . Leave the World Behind was influenced by Jordan Peele's film Get Out, apparent in Alam's acuity on whiteness. But the closest literary comparison could be Shirley Jackson, whose cold, detached voice can be heard in Alam's narrator when we are shown glimpses of what is happening in the wider world - Guardian

Alam has built an apocalyptic thriller around a single concept: what would you do if the world was crumbling around you? . . . This novel is catching hold of its readers, and it's easy to see why . . . A bracing read. The story is crafted with a deft lightness of touch and, at a mere 240 pages, it's brisk and unfaltering. But it's the eeriness of the burgeoning apocalypse, and the paralytic inability of the protagonists to help themselves, that will stay with you the longest - Irish Independent

An exacting and dread-inducing story of suspicion, prejudice and hysteria . . . It feels so entwined with the DNA of 2020, capturing the hallucinatory quality which time takes on when stuck inside not knowing what the future holds - Esquire

Once you read this topical and gripping novel, it's all you'll want to talk about - Stylist

Rumaan Alam's elegant novel presents a scenario familiar to many readers of contemporary fiction in 2020: a mass power meltdown . . . Alam controls the tension by almost imperceptible degrees . . . A wonderful novel about the figurative walls we build to keep the world outside - Metro

If the first half can turn a mirror on you, the second half will shatter it . . . Undeniably haunting - New York Times

Poised to be one of the biggest titles of the fall . . . A comedy of manners wrapped inside a tense disaster plot - New York Magazine

A slippery and duplicitous marvel of a novel . . . Leave the World Behind is atmospheric and prescient: its rhythms of comedy alternating with shock and despair mimic so much of the rhythms of life right now . . . A signature novel for this blasted year - NPR

Rarely have I encountered a book so cuttingly prescient about the current emotional atmosphere . . . Alam's deployment of creepy, inexplicable detail is masterful . . . This is a thrilling book - one that will speak to readers who have felt the terror of isolation in these recent, torturous months and one that will simultaneously, as great books do, lift them out of it - Vogue

Alam has written a genuine literary thriller, one that is also a disturbing window into our precarious age - Independent

The fall's biggest novel - Entertainment Weekly

Enthralling . . . Alam keeps close to his characters, who, like insects in acrylic, remain trapped in a state of suspended unease. This, he suggests, is the modern disaster - the precarity of American life, which leaves us unsure, always, if things can get worse . . . Alam's achievement is to see that his genre's traditional arc, which relies on the idea of aftermath, no longer makes sense. Today, disaster novels call for something different, a recognition that we won't find a new normal - New Yorker

Like Stephen King's 1980 novella The Mist, Leave the World Behind expertly illustrates the horror of the unknown, the almost painful humanity we feel when facing down the end and, of course, human nature under duress. During an era of plague, racism, hatred, and division, this tale of a vacation gone awry is terrifyingly prescient - Rolling Stone

One of the eeriest, most disturbing stories I've read in some time . . . The contours of everything might be recognisable, but what's contained within is wholly deranged - Refinery 29

Riveting and claustrophobic, Leave the World Behind invites us to sit with our discomfort and reflect on our own rushed judgments, delivering a dazzling and dark examination of family, race, class and what matters most when the impossible becomes possible - Esquire

Leave the World Behind is that rarest of things: a beautifully written, emotionally resonant page-turner. Alam explores complex ideas about privilege and fate with miraculous wit and grace - Jenny Offill, author of Weather

Perfectly paced, clever and haunting . . . This is one of those stories that inspires a hungry turn of pages, preceded by that desperate and lovely need to come up for air. So easily the best thing I've read all year - Kiley Reid, author of Such a Fun Age

This is an exceptional examination of race and class and what the world looks like when it's ending - not at all different from the world we are in now - Roxane Gay, author of Hunger

Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind is a canny Trojan horse of a novel, and also a Pandora's Box. Like the family at its center, we're seduced utterly by the bounty and insularity of its world, only to find ourselves, inch by inch, approaching a larger darkness lurking just beyond. With a potent Shirley Jackson energy, it is both eerily timeless and sharply prescient at once, and lingers long after its final page - Megan Abbott, author of Give Me Your Hand

Leave the World Behind is so many things--funny, sharp, insightful about modernity and race and parenthood and home--but at its core it's a story of our shared apocalypse; a steady look at humanity in the moment it tumbles from a great height. I have not been this profoundly unnerved by a science fiction novel since Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. - Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

Here in your hands, wrapped in the delicious cloth of suspense, Rumaan Alam begs us to ask the most important questions. How do we let the other in? Where do we draw the borders of home? A prescient book, built for these strange times, sure to entrance and electrify - Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark

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 - Laura Lippman, author of Lady in the Lake

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781526633088
Publication date: 12/11/2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781526633088
Publication date: 12th November 2020
Author: Rumaan Alam
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 256 pages
Genres: Book Club Recommendations, Dystopian Fiction, Family Drama, Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month, Diverse Voices, Star Books, Thriller / Suspense,
Collections: Our Favourite Books of 2020, Our Favourite Books of 2020,
Categories: Thriller / suspense, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Rumaan Alam

Rumaan Alam is the author of Rich and Pretty and That Kind of Mother. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Elle, New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal, The Rumpus, Buzzfeed, and elsewhere. He studied at Oberlin College, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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