This book has to be one of the most polarizing books that has been published lately. I had to get my hands on Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam as soon as I read the synopsis and started reading the buzz. This literary prose is polarizing and will leave you with many unanswered questions, but that is precisely what the author wants. This book makes you FEEL. It makes you think, and it makes you question your existence. I listened to Leave the World Behind on audio and I have some thoughts. I finished thinking, what da fuq did I just read?! but after stewing with it for a couple of weeks, I am liking it more and more. The intricacies of this story are mind blowing.
***This review contains spoilers, so please do not read past “Mel’s Thoughts” unless you have read the book.***
Two families meet in an untimely situation, unsure of what is happening in the world and what their futures hold. Leave the World Behind is a story of family, class, racism, and existentialism. A family vacation turned apocalyptic, this book will generate plenty of conversation and is the book equivalent of an ear worm. Trust me, you will read this and never stop thinking about it. Leave the World Behind will stay with you, well after you finish the last page.
Leave the World Behind is one of the strangest, most thought provoking books I have read in awhile. The writing is descriptive, but does so to set the stage for the drastic difference of life before and after the unknown event. I tend to prefer stories with a tidy ending, where all the questions I accrued throughout the book have answers at the end. This is not that book. You will be left with plenty of unanswered questions, but that is precisely the point. It isn’t so much about what happened/what is happening as it is the fact that it is happening and there needs to be a reaction.
What I found really interesting and thought provoking was how this unknown event takes place and the only people who seem able to accept the fact that it is happening, and they don’t have answers, are the nature and children. How true is this of life that animals and children are much more aware and adaptable than adults are? It made me think of this pandemic and how much panic there was in the beginning, but if I looked at my children, they could have cared less. We can’t go out as much? Okay, we will hang out at home. We need to wear masks? Whatever, sure mom. They rolled with it, meanwhile so many of us floundered and couldn’t get over the fact that we didn’t have answers immediately. Similarly, Clay, Amanda, G.H., and Ruth fret over not knowing what was happening and searching for answers to questions they would never get, meanwhile Rose and Archie accept that things are changing, even if they have no idea what is going on outside their rental house.
Leave the World Behind definitely made me think deeply about my life and what I chose to focus on, worry about, spend my time doing, as well as how reliant I am on technology. What would I do if the electrical grid failed and cell phones were obsolete? I am sure I would feel as helpless as Amanda. In the grand scheme of things, so much of it really does not matter.
There is no shortage of discussion topics surrounding this book and one of the best parts of finishing it, has been reading other people's reviews. I find it incredibly interesting how everyone interpreted different aspects of this book. I have read plenty of other reviews of this book and find it so interesting what stands out to each reader. For me, the elements of family shown through, which I am sure is because of my stage in life, but for others the elements of race, class, and white fragility were center stage. I found these elements incredibly thought provoking, especially when it came to the unconscious bias the the main characters had towards the rental home owners. I highly recommend reading other reviews after you finish this book. One of my favorite bookstagrammers, Tina @tbretc, has suggested this book as a book club choice and I completely agree. There is no shortage of discussion fodder here and you could honestly talk about this book for DAYS.
The audio is fabulous. Narrated by Marin Ireland, one of my favorite narrators, I highly recommend it. (She also narrated Nothing to See Here and I honestly think I only liked the book because of her voice.) ***Click here to sign up for a FREE 30-day trial with Audiobooks.com and get your first three books for free. You can find Leave the World Behind, as well as countless other audiobooks to listen to.***
“They had asked themselves questions when they decided to have children-do we have the money, do we have the space, do we have what it takes-but they didn’t ask what the world would be when their children grew.”
Content warnings: racism, graphic sex scenes, illness of children (involving teeth)