Book Review: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Today’s Brew of Choice: brown sugar espresso with oat milk

Good morning! Back at you today with another book review. I’m reading so many books right now and not reviewing them quickly, I feel like I’m behind! But really, I’m just reading faster than my blog allows. I hope you’re having a wonderful reading month already, I can’t wait to hear what you all are reading. Let me know in the comments!

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Title: Leave the World Behind
Author: Rumaan Alam
Publisher: Ecco
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Genre: Psychological thriller, mystery, literary fiction

A beautifully unsettling literary fiction with creepy and compelling writing

At a glance: Amanda and Clay just want a vacation away from everything, but things don’t go as planned when they get a knock on the door in the middle of the night from a couple they don’t know…

  • ๐Ÿ’ซ Atmospheric
  • ๐Ÿ“– Couldn’t Put It Down
  • ๐ŸŽข Thriller
  • ๐Ÿ“• Literary Fiction

Read this if… you love atmospheric books, if you read books for the compelling writing style, if you love when you feel just as uneasy as the characters, you like books that keep you guessing what is happening.

Diversity Representation: Author of Color, Black supporting characters

Content Warnings: the mention of death, disease and unrest, vomit, medical stuff, cursing, racism, blood

Book Review

Creepy, unsettling, atmospheric, brilliant, mundane, impressive, thought-provoking

I feel like I spontaneously picked up Leave the World Behind because I was really itching for another short audiobook. This book hit the spot. It’s simple, creepy, and incredibly written. The best part is that it’s a quick read, so it’s the perfect binge read. Being able to finish an entire book in one sitting (or in one day) is my favorite and this one you could do just that.

Quick Summary: Leave the World Behind is the story of Amanda and Clay as they take a family vacation to a remote but luxurious house in Long Island. Pretty quickly into their vacation, they get a knock on their door in the middle of the night. It’s an older Black couple who have arrived in a panicked state, saying that this is their house, and speaking about a big blackout in the city even though the power in the house works. Can Amanda and Clay trust this couple? Should they let them stay? How do they know what to believe?

The absolute brilliance of this book is the writing. The way that the author can describe completely mundane tasks that still make a statement on white supremacy is simply stunning. Simply describing a shopping list manages to be compelling. It highlights the mundane pieces of white supremacy, a side of it that we don’t often ever see in literature. I was blown away the entire time by the social comments that managed to slip their way into descriptions of inanimate objects in a way that I have never seen before.

Another stroke of brilliance in this book was the way that it uses fear. Fear is not given in what is written, but in what is not written. The entire book shows only small pieces of what is happening in the world, and the reader is left to speculate on the rest. Just as Rumaan Alam manages to be compelling in the mundane, he also manages to keep you on the edge of your seat by giving you just the right amount to keep you interested and not an ounce more. The balance was stunning.

The horror in Leave the World Behind leaves much up to the imagination. It forces the reader into gaslighting themselves into believing nothing could be happening (Seriously, mid-book I asked Sarah if anything was happening at all). Everything that happens is something that you can explain away as if it didn’t happen. However, as the story progresses, things get more and more unsettling. Fear sneaks up on you and makes you question the entire book. It truly gives you the same unease as a reader as the main characters must feel. Exceptional!

Summing it all up

Leave the World Behind is truly written wonderfully. Even though not much happened, the writing is compelling enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. The brilliance of this novel is in the writing and the way that it leaves so much to your imagination, but encourages you to imagine the worst. Chilling!

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Book Club Questions:
Leave the World Behind

  • What is the significance of the deer that keep popping up? Have you seen this happen in any other book or movie? Quickly google the symbolism of deer and discuss your findings. How does that change what you thought of them during your read?
  • How did you feel about the way the author presented the mundane side of white supremacy? What statements do you think he was trying to make on race and class? Did you feel uncomfortable at any point?
  • Hypothesize what you think was happening in the world outside of the remote home that the characters are staying in. Did all of your assumptions match up? Did you all have different ideas of what was happening to the world? Discuss the similarities and differences between all of your hypothesis and try to figure out why they differ.

About the Author

I’m the author of three novels: Rich and Pretty, That Kind of Mother, and Leave the World Behind. Other writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Bookforum, The New York Times, New York Magazine, and the New Republic, where I am a contributing editor. I also co-host two podcasts for Slate. I studied writing at Oberlin College. Now I live in New York with my family.

Let’s chat!

๐Ÿ”ฆ Have you read any of Alam’s other books?
๐Ÿ”ฆ Are you a fan of uneventful psychological thrillers that keep you scared by what they don’t tell you?
๐Ÿ”ฆ What is the scariest thing about psychological thrillers for you?

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Want More Diverse Book Recommendations?

Check out the rest of my blog! I’m dedicated to sharing books with you that include diversity, so feel comfortable that any books on Bookish Brews will include some diversity.

If you liked this review or thought you might like this book, check out some of my other reviews for books with similar creepy, psychological & smart books:

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Newest addition to my TBR: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam!

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