Leave the World Behind

One of my BOTM picks from October was short-listed right after I ordered my box, so I was eager to get it read sooner rather than later. In the slow-burn of Early Voting, I started reading Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam, which I would classify as somewhere between lit fic and literary thriller but ultimatly I’m not sure what I feel in the end.

Amanda and Clay and their kids–tween Rosie and teen Archie–head out to a nice, AirBnB rental on Long Island. Things are going fine–they’re being middle class white people, making dinner, lounging in the pool, etc.

And then, in the middle of the night, there’s a knock on the door. It’s an older black couple–GH & Ruth–and they say they own the house, there’s a blackout in NYC, and they need to stay there for the night.

But as the night progresses, as they live in fear without connection to the outside world, it becomes clear something more sinister. Birds that aren’t supposed to be there, large herds of deer, a sound that no one can explain, and what they don’t know is that around the world, things are changing. Things will never be the same.

I did enjoy the writing of this novel. It’s intricate–in weird ways, sometimes–it’s clearly literary fiction, it’s intense–but I realized it’s more of a story about characters and their reactions than what is actually happening in the outside world. A bomb, Iran, North Korea, civil war, whatever, it’s not as important as the ways these characters react to each other across race, class, familial divides, etc. This book isn’t just about assumptions you make about people because of their race or class, it’s about how those initial assumptions and biases can bleed further and further into the moment.

I’m going to be thinking about this book for a bit, but I don’t think it’ll stick with me forever. It wasn’t THAT good to me, but it was interesting to chew on.

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