Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Reviewed by Teri Takle

New York City residents, Amanda and Clay, need a vacation. Life can be tedious with having a teenaged boy and a daughter. They lead the busy lives of a white middle-classed American family. Amanda selected the perfect vacation home on Long Island in a remote and luxurious area, renting a house with a pool for one week. The home is lovely and better than she had expected.

Their time on Long Island is enjoyable until there is a knock on the door. An older black couple is waiting to enter the house while claiming that this is their home and they want the family to leave.

They will even refund their week’s stay in cash, even doubling it. They claim that strange things are happening in the city, so they jointly decided to go back to their own home.
Wait! The week is not over. Do you leave? Do you demand a refund? Are they the actual owners? Is this some scam? Do they believe the couple? Are they criminals?
Would you? What would you do?

For me, I would immediately call the company responsible for the booking.
However, that is an additional problem. As the so-called owners informed the family, the strangeness seems to be that all communication forms are down. No phones, no internet, no television, no communication with the outside world seems to be a significant problem. Oddly, electricity is still available and working.

The author, Rumaan Alam, has also written the novels: Rich and Pretty and That Kind of Mother. He is a contributing editor for the New Republic magazine and resides with his family in New York.

I found this book challenging to form an opinion. The themes of racism, society norms, wealth, stereotypes all made me uncomfortable, along with the inconclusive ending. It is a well-plotted story that is intriguing and reads quickly but has the reader wondering about their actions and choices if they were in the main characters’ situation.

Leave the World Behind made me think about how I might have handled the situation differently. I can state that I don’t know if I would have chosen to do things differently or better.

Would I recommend the book? Definitely, but be aware that you might like the choices.