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Leave the World Behind
Cover of Leave the World Behind
Leave the World Behind
A Novel
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A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award (Fiction)

A Best Book of the Year From: The Washington Post * Time * NPR * Elle * Esquire * Kirkus * Library Journal * The Chicago Public Library * The New York Public Library * BookPage * The Globe and Mail * EW.com * The LA Times * USA Today * InStyle * The New Yorker * AARP * Publisher's Lunch * LitHub * Book Marks * Electric Literature * Brooklyn Based * The Boston Globe

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?

A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award (Fiction)

A Best Book of the Year From: The Washington Post * Time * NPR * Elle * Esquire * Kirkus * Library Journal * The Chicago Public Library * The New York Public Library * BookPage * The Globe and Mail * EW.com * The LA Times * USA Today * InStyle * The New Yorker * AARP * Publisher's Lunch * LitHub * Book Marks * Electric Literature * Brooklyn Based * The Boston Globe

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?

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Rumaan Alam is the author of the novels Rich and Pretty, That Kind of Mother, and the instant New York Times bestseller Leave the World Behind. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Bookforum, and the New Republic, where he is a contributing editor. He studied writing at Oberlin College and lives in New York with his family.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2020

    Author of the popular novels Rich and Pretty and That Kind of Mother, Alam returns with an edgy work about a couple who leave New York City for some down time with their children at a rented house on Long Island. Then a man and a woman claiming to be the house's owners appear at the door, moaning that they have fled a major blackout in the city. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2020
    An interrupted family vacation, unexpected visitors, a mysterious blackout--something is happening, and the world may never be the same. On a reassuringly sunny summer day, Amanda, an account director in advertising; Clay, a college professor; and their children, Archie, 15, and Rose, 13, make their way from Brooklyn to a luxury home (swimming pool! hot tub! marble countertops!) in a remote area of Long Island they've rented for a family vacation. Shortly after they arrive, however, the family's holiday is interrupted by a knock on the door: The house's owners, a prosperous older black couple--George Washington and his wife, Ruth--have shown up unannounced because New York City has been plunged into a blackout and their Park Avenue high-rise apartment didn't feel safe. Soon it becomes clear that the blackout is a symptom (or is it a cause?) of something larger--and nothing is safe. Has there been a nuclear or climate disaster, a war, a terrorist act, a bomb? Alam's story unfolds like a dystopian fever dream cloaked in the trappings of a dream vacation: Why do hundreds of deer show up in the house's well-maintained backyard or a flock of bright-pink flamingos frolic in the family pool and then fly away? What is the noise, loud enough to crack glass, that comes, without warning, once and then, later, repeatedly? Is it safer to go back to the city, to civilization, or to remain away, in a world apart? As they search for answers and adjust to what increasingly appears to be a confusing new normal, the two families--one black, one white; one older, one younger; one rich, one middle-class--are compelled to find community amid calamity, to come together to support each other and survive. As he did in his previous novels, Rich and Pretty (2016) and That Kind of Mother (2018), Alam shows an impressive facility for getting into his characters' heads and an enviable empathy for their moral shortcomings, emotional limitations, and failures of imagination. The result is a riveting novel that thrums with suspense yet ultimately offers no easy answers--disappointing those who crave them even as it fittingly reflects our time. Addressing race, risk, retreat, and the ripple effects of a national emergency, Alam's novel is just in time for this moment.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 13, 2020
    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.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 1, 2020
    Amanda and Craig and their children, Archie and Rose, hope to leave their troubles behind as they vacation in a remote Long Island cottage. But the world has a way of finding you. Barely a day into their vacation, the house's owners come knocking. Panicked by a total blackout in Manhattan, where they usually reside, Ruth and G. H. are seeking refuge in their other home. As if to confirm the couple's unease, unsettling events?flamingos flying in the woods, an earth-shattering noise invading the saturated summer silence?transpire. As they do, Alam (That Kind of Mother, 2018) brilliantly captures the shift in dynamics between the two families, from apprehension about each other to a collective front against an external entity. The narrative's increasing tempo expertly dives into subtle yet incisive intersections between class and race, since the vacationers are white, and G. H. and Ruth are Black. Alam's novel lobs a series of unsettling questions: How will we react to the next nebulous horror? How will we parent? What will we define as home? Home was just where you were, in the end. It was just the place where you found yourself, thinks Rose. In a world constantly on edge, this will have to pass for consolation.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Shelf Awareness "Leave the World Behind is pitch-perfect in atmosphere, easy to read and deceptive in the high polish of its setting. Alam has crafted a deeply bewitching and disquieting masterpiece."
  • Rolling Stone "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."
  • Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark Here in your hands, wrapped in the delicious cloth of suspense, Leave the World Behind 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.
  • Kiley Reid, author of Such a Fun Age "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."
  • The New Yorker "Enthralling.... [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."
  • Los Angeles Review of Books "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 witty, incisive take on the American privileged classes has always been hilarious, but there's a sinister shadow behind the satire in his latest book, as it becomes increasingly tense and unsettling. Alam has achieved a rare feat—a comic novel that is also genuinely terrifying."
  • Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will "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. That's more than enough to make it a signature novel for this blasted year."
  • Fresh Air (NPR) "If there's one book that will haunt you in 2020, it's this one....Equal parts literary fiction and suspense, Leave the World Behind is an unsettling, thought-provoking, and disturbing look at both the precarious state of world affairs as well as class and race relations. In a year when anything — including the apocalypse — feels possible, this novel offers a realistic glimpse of how the world as we know it could end, and it will leave you reeling."
  • New York Times Book Review "This novel left me tense, overwhelmed,...
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Rumaan Alam
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