"Leave the World Behind" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
“Stranger Things” and “The Twilight Zone” have nothing on Rumaan Alam’s race-through, apocalyptic thriller “Leave the World Behind.” This strange book with a touch of the macabre had me by the throat one minute and scratching my head the next.
Yet as weird as the book became I couldn’t set it aside, determined as I was to discover the fate of two families thrown together in a crisis that causes power outages, animals to bolt in large numbers, teeth to indiscriminately fall out and glass to split due to ear-deafening noises.
The story begins on a realist note, as scary tales often do, setting us up to let our guard down believing the characters are “normal” and nothing untoward can happen, certainly nothing disturbing and unexplainable.
Clay and his wife Amanda, a middle class couple, and their children, Archie, 15, and Rose his little sister are headed out of New York City for an Airbnb rental “far from the world” with no cell service. “The Ultimate Escape,” it’s described: “Step into our beautiful home and leave the world behind.”
Clay and Amanda have little knowledge of what they’re in for as they see the brick “painted white” house, no idea that their peaceful getaway is going to be anything but after a blackout forces an unwanted couple to take up residence with them, an affluent black couple who have great familiarity with the house because it belongs to them.
With nowhere else to go George and Ruth, the homeowners, move in, much to Amanda’s displeasure. Still she realizes she can’t turn her back on the couple, George confessing they “…wanted to be in (their) house. Safe. While we figured out what’s going on out there.”
That will take some doing for Clay, Amanda, George, Ruth, the children and readers too in a book that defies definition. “Leave the World Behind,” puts its characters on a level playing field, the rug of predictability and certainty pulled out from under them—the future of the world they thought they understood rewritten before their eyes.