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. (Oct.)
"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."
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.
"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."
"This novel left me tense, overwhelmed, and bristling with admiration. Rumaan Alam is a brilliant writer, a beautiful prose stylist with an uncanny talent for drawing characters—both their individual quirks and foibles, and the subtle gradations of class and circumstance. In this novel he combines those gifts with absolutely superb pacing and atmospheric control, balancing the comic and the tragic, the real and the surreal, the cynical and the empathetic, the individual and the collective. I'm blown away by this novel."
Alam has a tremendous talent for bringing the complexities of family tensions to life. In the confined space of a single home, this remarkable novel takes on some of the hardest questions of our time about class, race, and who we become in moments of growing uncertainty. In every eloquent scene, Alam reveals something new about what being a family means in the twenty-first century.”
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.”
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.
"You will want to read Leave the World Behind very quickly, you will want to read it very slowly and savor every word. Rumaan Alam's ingenious, gorgeously written novel feels both like a prophecy and a contemporaneous response to our anxious era, all of it building to a perfect finale.
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.
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.