‘Leave the World Behind’ by Rumaan Alam’

A provactive, thoughtful novel as two families, strangers to each other, are forced to take refuge together when an unexplained event results in a breakdown of communication on the American East Coast.

A much needed break from New York has seen Amanda and Clay hire a remote, semi-luxurious home in the north of Long Island to spend quality time with their two early-teenage children. A few lazy days follow – beach, swimming pool, barbecues. But the reverie is broken one night by the arrival of two strangers – George and Ruth Washington. Not only do they claim to be the owners of the house, but announce that an unexplained power outtage has resulted in the whole of the East Coast shutting down (unbeknownst, it has affected far more). Hence their arrival. With TV, phones and internet down, Amanda and Clay are unsure what to believe.

What unspools within the confines of the household (and a foray into the outside – desserted – world by Clay) is the ebb and flow of uncertainty and distrust. Isolated, with no neighbours close by, it’s impossible to know what has happened. Fear seeps in as the claustrophobia of the house and power games (Ruth may own the house but Amanda has an exclusive use contract) covertly unfold.

Leave the World Behind is an engrossing novel as issues of wealth, race (the Washingtons are an older black couple), and parenthood are subtly explored in a slow burn uncertainty of a narrative. Dread and unease are the mainstay rather than any dystopian disaster tale as the two couples (and children) evaluate their position – and what to do about it.


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