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Leave the World Behind: A Novel by Rumaan…
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Leave the World Behind: A Novel (original 2020; edition 2020)

by Rumaan Alam (Author)

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1,0136415,491 (3.54)73
Member:BZ20
Title:Leave the World Behind: A Novel
Authors:Rumaan Alam (Author)
Info:Ecco (2020), Edition: 1st Edition, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work details

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (2020)

  1. 00
    A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet (sturlington)
    sturlington: Well-off people on vacation when disaster hits.
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» See also 73 mentions

English (63)  French (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
I knew the book was divisive, but until I’d picked it up, I hadn’t realized just how at odds my feelings would be. The basic premise was interesting, and the whole subtext of racism and classism was done quite well, too. Characterization seemed mostly on point, especially the men and how they viewed their relationship with others in the face of the apocalypse.

However, it was the language that got to me. Alam has a way with words, almost classical but not quite. See, he writes beautiful prose like this:

Of course, they’d never heard a noise like that before. You didn’t hear such a noise; you experienced it, endured it, survived it, witnessed it. You could fairly say that their lives could be divided into two: the period before they’d heard that noise and the period after.
But then on another page he writes this: “his penis jerked itself towards the sun, a yoga salutation, bouncing, then stiff at the house's allure.” I mean, what the hell? The image is crystal-clear but feels unnecessary, and it makes him look like he’s trying too hard (pun intended).

His use of language lends well to the stream of consciousness style he went for, offering observations from multiple characters who feel and act like real people. Alam also deftly handles tension and fear while keeping things vague and obtuse. The deer scene, in particular, was terrifying. The flamingos were surreal, to say the least.

And yet, the narrative often feels bloated. Alam spends too much time on gratuitous details, presenting them mostly on a surface level. The characterization could’ve been deeper because of it, but it feels like a missed opportunity. It reads like a long-ish short story rather than a novel.

Ultimately, it was an interesting low-level, personal look at the apocalypse. It just wasn’t wholly satisfying. ( )
  bdgamer | Sep 10, 2021 |
The premise of this novel is interesting, but the writing didn't work for me. Gratuitous sex, metaphors that didn't work well, and other inconsistencies took away from its potential. Dystopia, post-apocalypse in the Hamptons. Out of touch rich people caught unawares and unprepared for disaster. It did not ring realistic to me, but having never had to survive an apocalypse, who am I to judge? ( )
  hemlokgang | Aug 21, 2021 |
Really interesting concept. And I felt the ending was appropriate, if abrupt. But the characterization is just - bad. These are not real people with motivations that make sense. The characters observations and behaviors are bizarre. All the people in this book are shitty - so who cares what happens to them?

And I want to take away the author’s thesaurus. ( )
  jlabarge | Aug 18, 2021 |
Not done. But want to lay down first impressions: I'm scared the resolution (or tragic ending) is something absurd. I can't figure out what it may be. But I don't really care - this is like a secondary thread, somewhere in the background, occasionally referred to. As it is, the book is really good, whatever it is about that impending doom. Wonderfully written, although I have to say that I find a narrator is doing too much. It is intrusive, judgemental, and comments on every move or statement given. I don't find this annoying, the comments are always insightful, witty, reasonable and of course form the characters, but at times it does get strenuous for each and every conversation to be interrupted for several lines. Plus, it makes the characters a smidge too transparent, gives away too much of what readers would like to find out for themselves.

Done. Half-hearted attempt at doomsday scenario. I know the interest is supposed to be not in what might really be happening, but in the uncertainty, but instead of alluding to something that big without saying what (which is the case here) it would have been better to either put the story into an explicit end time context or reduce the mentions to a barest minimum, so as to have something vague looming at the horizon. The topos of communication / relationships in extreme situations sort of peters out.
  Kindlegohome | Aug 17, 2021 |
Thin characters, most of whom he doesn't like very much, in a basic end-of-our-times novel. Some very astute, writerly observations elevate this to lit'ry caliber. ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Leave the World Behind was written before the coronavirus crisis and yet it taps brilliantly into the feeling of generalised panic that has attached itself to the virus and seems to mingle fears about the climate, inequality, racism and our over-reliance on technology. As the reader moves through the book, a new voice interjects, an omniscient narrator who begins to allow us gradual access to the terrifying events taking place across America.
added by Lemeritus | editThe Guardian, Alex Preston (Nov 9, 2020)
 
In cutting detail, Alam moves between all the characters’ private thoughts on race, privilege, class and survival, revealing the lies they tell each other both to encourage a sense of calm and to protect their own insecurities.... There’s a dark comfort to engaging with these stories, a sense that living in uncertainty does not necessarily mean we are alone—and that knowing the future won’t help prevent it. I felt a particular isolation in the immediate aftermath of the storm; I feel it every day in the coronavirus era. Resolution will come later. Knowing that is enough for now. “Understanding came after the fact,” Alam writes of his characters. “You had to walk backward and try to make sense. That’s what people did, that’s how people learned.”
added by Lemeritus | editTIME, Annabel Gutterman (Oct 6, 2020)
 
Alam doesn’t dwell in the specificity of apocalypse, which has been the obsession of writers since the Flood. Instead he lobs a prescient accusation: Faced with the end of the world, you wouldn’t do a damn thing... “Leave the World Behind” teeters on that seesaw-edge question in horror fiction: to reveal the monster or not? Ultimately it totters too far to one side, but there is still the primal nail-biting need to know what-the-hell-is-going-on. This propulsion, which drives much of the characters’ decisions, likewise drives the reader onward to a breathless conclusion that, if not altogether satisfying, is undeniably haunting.
added by Lemeritus | editThe New York Times, Afia Atakora (pay site) (Oct 6, 2020)
 
Where other practitioners of the genre revel in chaos—the coarse spectacle of society unravelling—Alam keeps close to his characters, who, like insects in acrylic, remain trapped in a state of suspended unease. This, he suggests, is the modern disaster—the precarity of American life, which leaves us unsure, always, if things can get worse.... In the book’s final pages, as the tension suddenly ratchets up, Amanda thinks to herself, “They were equipped to handle certain fears. This was something else. It was hard to remind yourself to be rational in a world where that seemed not to matter as much, but maybe it never had.”
added by Lemeritus | editNew Yorker, Hillary Kelly (Oct 5, 2020)
 
“Leave the World Behind” is the perfect title for a book that opens with the promise of utopia and travels as far from that dream as our worst fears might take us. It is the rarest of books: a genuine thriller, a brilliant distillation of our anxious age, and a work of high literary merit that deserves a place among the classics of dystopian literature.
added by Lemeritus | editWashington Post, Porter Shreve (pay site) (Oct 5, 2020)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rumaan Alamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wood, SaraCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Love goes on like birdsong,
As soon as possible after a bomb.

--Bill Callahan, "Angela"
Dedication
for Simon and for Xavier
First words
Well, the sun was shining.
Quotations
There was no real structure to prevent chaos, there was only a collective faith in order.
Sometimes distance showed a thing most clearly.
Amanda wasn’t magnanimous. The call was a relief. She wanted her colleagues to need her as God wants people to keep praying.
He sat on the front lawn in the shade of a tree and smoked. He should feel bad about this, but tobacco was the foundation of the nation. Smoking tethered you to history itself! It was a patriotic act, or once had been, anyway, like owning slaves or killing the Cherokee.
Clay was diligent but also (he knew it) a little lazy. He wanted to be asked to write for the New York Times Book Review but didn’t want to actually write anything.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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