Leave the World Behind

by Rumaan Alam | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 9780062667632 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 2/22/2024
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, February 22, 2024
I found this hardcover in this new-to-me Little Free Library in Bolton MA while dropping off some books of my own, and was pleased to have another release copy. (The book inspired a 2023 film adaptation, which I saw recently - and was a bit underwhelmed by, though it did have its points. Would probably be more enjoyable to those who haven't read the book yet.) This copy had a couple of sticky-notes in the front with comments from previous readers - one of whom gave up because "the words were too big for me," while another liked the book and mentioned that "the big words are just a few pages - the rest is fine" {grin}.

The plot's a variation on end-of-the-world stories, and features a family renting a house for a getaway, only to have the older couple who own the house turn up and explain that there's some kind of blackout throughout New York... [The setup reminded me of the 2019 horror film The Beach House, in which a young couple visits the remote beach house for a getaway and finds that another older couple has also come to stay; that one also features increasingly bleak news from the outside.]

This is a very effective and chilling look at a global disaster from an extremely narrow viewpoint, highlighting the increasing confusion and distress caused primarily by uncertainty. Most of the novel switches between the viewpoints of the six characters - the middle-aged couple and their two late-teen children, and the older couple who own the beach house - but there are occasional omniscient-narrator comments about what's going on outside, though those are usually brief. (One quibble about the writing style: the viewpoint will shift between characters from one paragraph to another, no separation into sections or chapters, which sometimes left me feeling confused when I assumed that the thoughts of the character I'd been following had suddenly changed, only to realize that it was the viewpoint character who'd changed: "Oh wait, that's Ruth, not Rose! That makes more sense!")

I will say that, while the characters aren't horrible people and seem in general to be doing the best they can, they aren't especially likable either. Ruth, the older woman, seems the most - helpful? - though we can tell from her own introspective passages that she's barely keeping things together, and resorts to chores just to keep from losing it entirely.

Much of the story has domestic suspense in the forefront, with the possible worldwide disaster on the back burner: the stress of being stuck in a remote house with strangers, with limited supplies, no contact with the outside world, and a growing sense that something's terribly wrong, but also having to deal with the conflicting pressure of "renters entitled to privacy this week" and "owners in need of shelter". I admit that this unwanted togetherness made *me* feel antsy; I'd almost rather face such a situation entirely alone than with people I wasn't comfortable with!

Part of the intriguing aspect of the story is the "what would you do" part. The characters had functioning vehicles, they could have opted to drive to civilization or at least to a place where they could expect better cell service. But the few glimpses they got of the news - widespread power outages, some kind of military threat - left them unwilling to leave what is, for now, a safe and reasonably comfortable retreat, where the power is (so far) still on...

There are some surprising and yet believable bits, such as the younger man attempting to drive to town for supplies and getting hopelessly lost on the unfamiliar roads without his GPS to rely on, or the young girl opting to do more exploring of nearby houses while the adults pretty much avoid even trying to reach out to neighbors until near the end of the novel. [I'd probably have been in the "drive until you find someplace with better info, if possible" camp - but could easily see getting lost, getting scared, and haring back to the only known safe place.]

There are other plot points that may change the characters' futures quite dramatically, especially the poor son, who suffers the most from what may be a biological agent (or an insanely aggressive case of Lyme disease!); whether they have much chance to survive long-term is left unresolved by the end of the book, though the most resourceful character seems determined to give it a shot.

If you like your apocalypses clear-cut and detailed, this one may not be for you, but as a memorable character-study and an examination of doubt, uncertainty, and fear, it's very effective.

[There's a TV Tropes page on the film adaptation, with some interesting tidbits.]

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at LFL [OBCZ] - New Searles Rd, #46 in Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Friday, February 23, 2024

Released 1 mo ago (2/23/2024 UTC) at LFL [OBCZ] - New Searles Rd, #46 in Nashua, New Hampshire USA

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

I left this book in my Little Free Library; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

Released for:

** 2024 Heads Shoulders Knees Toes challenge **

** 2024 Movie challenge. **

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, March 25, 2024
This book is no longer in my LFL. I hope whoever took it enjoys it, and considers journaling it someday!

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