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Leave the World Behind


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An electrifying and unnerving novel for our times, Leave the World Behind elegantly captures our age of anxiety and shows how the most terrifying situations are never far from reality

About the Author

Rumaan Alam is the author of Rich and Pretty and That Kind of Mother. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Elle, New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal, The Rumpus, Buzzfeed, and elsewhere. He studied at Oberlin College, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Stupendously good . . . Simply breathtaking, full of moments of exquisite recognition, as terrifying and prescient as Cormac McCarthy's The Road . . . Leave the World Behind is an extraordinary book, at once smart, gripping and hallucinatory . . . When future generations (if that term doesn't sound over-optimistic at the moment) want to know what it was like to live through the nightmare of 2020, this is the novel they'll reach for * Observer *
Would be resonant and terrifying even in a more normal year . . . In his dazzling prose, his fascination with catastrophe and his apparent ability to portend the future, Alam is a worthy descendant of Don DeLillo . . . You will probably need to read it in as close to one sitting as possible * Sunday Times *
A sensation . . . A tense, atmospheric, splendidly written attempt to grapple with impending doom ... Even in its infancy, Leave the World Behind was well poised to become the book of an era . . . A striking, unsettling novel * Independent *
Without any exaggeration, I can honestly say that I devoured Leave the World Behind, in one greedy, uneasy gulp. It's a taut page-turner - one that starts out as a smart, knowing, contemporary comedy of manners, but quickly spirals into an apocalyptic nightmare so terrifyingly realistic that it sent shivers down my spine * Daily Telegraph *
For the reader, the invisible terror outside in Leave the World Behind echoes the sense of disquiet today in a world convulsed by the pandemic. There are intense parallels between the unreality of life in the Long Island bolt-hole described in the book and lockdown . . . The novel excels in its dissection of modern liberal America and forces the reader to confront the limits of their own heroism in the face of disaster * Financial Times *
A book that could have been tailor-made for our times, with its tale of racial tensions and an unnatural disaster . . . It's a close-up narrative, and its strength lies in the emotional pull . . . There's something for everyone: that is, to terrify everyone, from parents to nature lovers to hypochondriacs * The Times *
A page-turner, taking in themes of isolation, race and class . . . As the author of a book about people trapped inside a house by a huge event, desperate for information, Alam is a curious prophet . . . Alam has an almost anthropological eye for the absurdities of the upper-middle class, for the blindness of white people . . . Leave the World Behind was influenced by Jordan Peele's film Get Out, apparent in Alam's acuity on whiteness. But the closest literary comparison could be Shirley Jackson, whose cold, detached voice can be heard in Alam's narrator when we are shown glimpses of what is happening in the wider world * Guardian *
Rumaan Alam creates an atmosphere of dread so convincing and prescient that it stays with the reader long after reading . . . Explores issues of race, class and identity in the face of overwhelming disaster * Irish Times *
Alam has built an apocalyptic thriller around a single concept: what would you do if the world was crumbling around you? . . . This novel is catching hold of its readers, and it's easy to see why . . . A bracing read. The story is crafted with a deft lightness of touch and, at a mere 240 pages, it's brisk and unfaltering. But it's the eeriness of the burgeoning apocalypse, and the paralytic inability of the protagonists to help themselves, that will stay with you the longest * Irish Independent *
An exacting and dread-inducing story of suspicion, prejudice and hysteria . . . It feels so entwined with the DNA of 2020, capturing the hallucinatory quality which time takes on when stuck inside not knowing what the future holds * Esquire *
Once you read this topical and gripping novel, it's all you'll want to talk about * Stylist *
Rumaan Alam's elegant novel presents a scenario familiar to many readers of contemporary fiction in 2020: a mass power meltdown . . . Alam controls the tension by almost imperceptible degrees . . . A wonderful novel about the figurative walls we build to keep the world outside * Metro *
If the first half can turn a mirror on you, the second half will shatter it . . . Undeniably haunting * New York Times *
Poised to be one of the biggest titles of the fall . . . A comedy of manners wrapped inside a tense disaster plot * New York Magazine *
A slippery and duplicitous marvel of a novel . . . Leave the World Behind is atmospheric and prescient: its rhythms of comedy alternating with shock and despair mimic so much of the rhythms of life right now . . . A signature novel for this blasted year * NPR *
Rarely have I encountered a book so cuttingly prescient about the current emotional atmosphere . . . Alam's deployment of creepy, inexplicable detail is masterful . . . This is a thrilling book - one that will speak to readers who have felt the terror of isolation in these recent, torturous months and one that will simultaneously, as great books do, lift them out of it * Vogue *
Alam has written a genuine literary thriller, one that is also a disturbing window into our precarious age * Independent *
The fall's biggest novel * Entertainment Weekly *
Enthralling . . . 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 . . . Alam's achievement is to see that his genre's traditional arc, which relies on the idea of aftermath, no longer makes sense. Today, disaster novels call for something different, a recognition that we won't find a new normal * New Yorker *
Like Stephen King's 1980 novella The Mist, Leave the World Behind expertly illustrates the horror of the unknown, the almost painful humanity we feel when facing down the end and, of course, human nature under duress. During an era of plague, racism, hatred, and division, this tale of a vacation gone awry is terrifyingly prescient * Rolling Stone *
One of the eeriest, most disturbing stories I've read in some time . . . The contours of everything might be recognisable, but what's contained within is wholly deranged * Refinery 29 *
Riveting and claustrophobic, Leave the World Behind invites us to sit with our discomfort and reflect on our own rushed judgments, delivering a dazzling and dark examination of family, race, class and what matters most when the impossible becomes possible * Esquire *
Leave the World Behind is that rarest of things: a beautifully written, emotionally resonant page-turner. Alam explores complex ideas about privilege and fate with miraculous wit and grace * Jenny Offill, author of Weather *
Perfectly paced, clever and haunting . . . This is one of those stories that inspires a hungry turn of pages, preceded by that desperate and lovely need to come up for air. So easily the best thing I've read all year * Kiley Reid, author of Such a Fun Age *
This is an exceptional examination of race and class and what the world looks like when it's ending - not at all different from the world we are in now * Roxane Gay, author of Hunger *
Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind is a canny Trojan horse of a novel, and also a Pandora's Box. Like the family at its center, we're seduced utterly by the bounty and insularity of its world, only to find ourselves, inch by inch, approaching a larger darkness lurking just beyond. With a potent Shirley Jackson energy, it is both eerily timeless and sharply prescient at once, and lingers long after its final page * Megan Abbott, author of Give Me Your Hand *
Leave the World Behind is so many things--funny, sharp, insightful about modernity and race and parenthood and home--but at its core it's a story of our shared apocalypse; a steady look at humanity in the moment it tumbles from a great height. I have not been this profoundly unnerved by a science fiction novel since Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. * Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties *
Here in your hands, wrapped in the delicious cloth of suspense, Rumaan Alam begs us to ask the most important questions. How do we let the other in? Where do we draw the borders of home? A prescient book, built for these strange times, sure to entrance and electrify * Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark *
Suspenseful and provocative, Rumaan Alam's third novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped--and unexpected new ones are forged--in moments of crisis * Laura Lippman, author of Lady in the Lake *

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