Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Amanda, Clay and their two teenaged children are expecting a quiet vacation. They’ve rented an upmarket house on Long Island for a week – revelling in the chance to enjoy some rest from the bustle of New York City and their demanding jobs. No cell service. Plenty of peace and quiet.
Everything quickly changes when, late one night, Ruth and GH – the couple who own the house – come knocking at the door. A city-wide blackout has sent them rushing to their vacation home. It quickly becomes clear that something much stranger than just a blackout is happening, but without cell service – and then without TV or internet as well – the two couples have no way of knowing what’s going on in the outside world. Is the vacation house, or anywhere for that matter, safe?
Rumaan Alam’s third novel is a compulsively readable thriller. The tension is palpable. You’re as desperate to know what is going on in the outside world as the characters are. Creating just as much tension as the unknown are the issues of class and race that inevitably come up between the White, solidly middle-class Amanda and Clay and the Black, wealthy Ruth and GH.
Leave the World Behind has been generating plenty of hype. It is a finalist for the National Book Award and has already been optioned into a Netflix film starring Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts. All of this before it was even published. Reading it, however, it is easy to see why. The novel is certainly timely. The feelings of dread and ignorance concerning the outside world will be familiar to all of us dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. More importantly, it is just a fantastic read. It is strange, original, and thrilling. It is tempting to compare it to other post-apocalyptic books but there is nothing out there quite like it. This is destined to end up on the ‘best of’ lists at the end of the year, so do yourself a favour and read it immediately.