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Leave the World Behind Review

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Amanda and Clay plan a vacation with their two kids, but when an unexplained power outage occurs, the owners of the rented home show up. Things only get weirder from there.


Contemporary, mystery, thriller, suspense


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 Black 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 another?


This is a strange, anxious novel. I can’t say much about it because it would involve spoiling, so this review will be shorter than most. Perfectly timed for the pandemic, it’s about people in crisis, cut off from the stable world they took for granted. It’s claustrophobic, the anxiety winding around the characters and getting into the reader. You could say it’s a thriller without any fight scenes or much action.

Like the main characters, the reader is left in the dark about what is happening, even though the narrative occasionally veers away to what’s happening all over the world. It’s very unique and a hard to categorize story. I wouldn’t know quite where to place it.

At the beginning it’s hard to get into, but things pick up once the home owners arrive and it only gets better from there. I liked it; though it made me uncomfortable. This shows how great the writer is at fostering anxiety in his readers. I couldn’t read books like this very often, but this one was great to read and an excellent book if you’re looking for something very different from typical.

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