Leave The World Behind

by Rumaan Alam

Kirkus 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 © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Kirkus An interrupted family vacation, unexpected visitors, a mysterious blackoutsomething 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 theyve rented for a family vacation. Shortly after they arrive, however, the familys holiday is interrupted by a knock on the door: The houses owners, a prosperous older black coupleGeorge Washington and his wife, Ruthhave shown up unannounced because New York City has been plunged into a blackout and their Park Avenue high-rise apartment didnt feel safe. Soon it becomes clear that the blackout is a symptom (or is it a cause?) of something largerand nothing is safe. Has there been a nuclear or climate disaster, a war, a terrorist act, a bomb? Alams story unfolds like a dystopian fever dream cloaked in the trappings of a dream vacation: Why do hundreds of deer show up in the houses 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 familiesone black, one white; one older, one younger; one rich, one middle-classare 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 answersdisappointing 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 Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal This latest from Alam (That Kind of Mother) is so clever and so subtle that it draws readers into a false sense of security and understanding, much like that experienced by Amanda and Clay, who have brought their children to a lovely rental home on Long Island. Initially, the book seems to be about a modern marriage and family, priorities and choices, and how one measures success in the 21st century, and it is. But it is also much more. Their vacation bubble is abruptly burst when Ruth and G.H., the homeowners, unexpectedly come knocking late one night, bringing news of a major blackout in New York City. Electricity is on at the rental home, and all seems well, but there is no phone signal or internet access. Amanda and Clay don't know what to believe, and Alam's writing palpably captures their uneasiness, vulnerability, and fear for their children, with the narrative at turns riveting and disconcerting but in the best way. Readers are given clues to events in the outside world even as the characters remain unaware, but much is left unexplained, leaving the disquiet to linger long after the finish. VERDICT Highly recommended and perfectly timed for today's uncertain world. [See Prepub Alert, 4/1/2020.]—Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list 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.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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.)

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Library Journal 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.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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