Leave The World Behind
By Rumaan Alam
Ecco, 9780062667632, October 2020, 256pp.
The Short of It:
This book left me unsettled and anxious but the story will stay with me for a very long time.
The Rest of It:
Amanda and Clay leave the city to rent a luxurious vacation home in Long Island. A week away with their two teenagers, simple meals, days spent swimming and lounging, is just what they need. An escape from city life sounds so perfect, even if only for a week.
The home is beautiful and private and as they fill the fridge with their own groceries and begin to fill the space with their own belongings, they begin to unwind and enjoy this brief respite. But then, they hear voices and shortly thereafter, there is a knock at the door. Who could be knocking at this late hour? Should they open it? Is it safe?
Ruth and G.H. Washington are at the door. They explain that something has happened in the city, a power outage and that they did what they felt was right, headed to their home in Long Island, yes the home Amanda and Clay are renting. You see, Ruth and G.H. are the owners.
Well folks, this presents all kinds of problems. It’s their home, so how can Amanda and Clay deny them access to their own home? Plus, Ruth and G.H. are older and it’s cold outside and a storm is on its way. How can they not let them in? But Amanda is concerned for their safety. Their kids are asleep and these people are strangers.
I want to be careful what I say here as I don’t want to give anything away but these two couples are put into a very difficult spot and they are tested in many ways. Their trust for one another, their lack of communication or real news (satellite, Wi-Fi and cell service is down), and yet their power remains. What has happened in the city? And then, something happens that forces them to consider that whatever has happened, is much bigger than a power outage.
Reading this book was stressful! There is an underlying current that runs through the book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. You can’t relax, yet you can’t put it down. You spend time with these people and get to know all their insecurities, their fears and in less than three hundred pages, a good sense for what makes them tick. As I was reading, I kept thinking about what I would do in that situation. When I turned the last page, I was at a loss for words. I had to buzz a friend who read it so we could discuss. It’s that kind of book. Plus, it’s a genre bender. Could be classified many different ways.
I will warn you, it’s gotten mixed reviews. Many readers hated it. Perhaps for the feeling it gave them or that the story is a little ambiguous. I, however, LOVED it. But I don’t rate books the same way most people do. I rate often for the experience. Did it take me away from my daily concerns? Yes. Was I riveted? Yes. Did I appreciate how the author told the story? Yes. So for me, it was a solid five stars and will be on my list of faves at the end of the year.
If you’ve read the book, check out this really interesting interview with Rhianna Walton for Powell’s. If you haven’t read it, save it for later because there are spoilers.
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