Hi friends! Starting with this month, you can expect two designated reviews each month: one for the Book of the Month Box book that I choose, and one for the book I receive in my Bookish Box subscription. This book, Leave the World Behind, was my main choice for my October Book of the Month Box (I added on two additional books, but this was my free pick). This book and the Bookish Box selection are both on my TBR page and are updated as soon as monthly selections are released.
Synopsis & Quick Thoughts
Leave The World Behind is the third novel written by Rumaan Alam and was my October pick for my Book of the Month box. Amanda, Clay, and their kids are renting a vacation house in Long Island for a break from life in New York City when two strangers – an elderly black couple – show up at their doorstep. They claim to be the owners of the house and bring news of a blackout sweeping the East Coast. Something is amiss, but can each group trust one another? What’s actually happening outside?
God this is the second letdown book I’ve read in a row and I’m so upset because I wanted to love it. Parts of this book were really good. I felt like I was right on the cusp of enjoying it but certain things kept ruining the vibe. Normally I think I’m good at not letting one aspect of a novel ruin the entire experience, but some elements, specifically the writing style in this case, really threw me off.
The theme in this book is incredibly timely and freaky – what do we do when our access to knowledge is cut off entirely? Isolated in a large home with no reception or access to information, two families must make decisions and survive without an inkling of what’s going on in the rest of the world. With the obvious presence of COVID-19 still of great concern in the United States (wear a damn mask), it’s a terrifying thought to imagine a scenario in which you are blind to the state of the nation or the world. The theme is one that I haven’t seen explored in many novels, so I appreciated the fresh idea and the ability it had on me to reflect on my situation and reliance on technology. Although I’m not sure this theme was as well explored or developed as it could have been, it was a captivating idea that I appreciated.
There were also a couple of truly creepy moments within Leave the World Behind. I won’t tell you what any of them are as to not ruin your potential future enjoyment, but they drew me into the story and made me sit on the edge of my seat. The mystery of trying to figure out how everything was connected and what was going to happen next was incredibly intriguing, but I’ll discuss the payoff and resolution of these moments in the negatives section, womp womp.
Oh-kay, this is where we get to the meat of this review. The main things that bothered me with this book that I’m going to explore are the writing style, the ending (no spoilers don’t worry!), and the pacing.
Writing style bad. I have a number of writing styles that I don’t love (I’m experiencing a different one with teh book I’m currently reading right now!), but one of my LEAST favorite ones is the classic ~men writing women~ issue. I shouldn’t be able to read a book and go “hmm. I bet you this was written by a man” and be right, and that’s what happened here. I feel like I’m obligated to mention here that while I don’t read romance or erotica, I’m not a prude. I don’t mind sex in books and I don’t mind descriptions of nudity or sexual thoughts; it’s part of the human experience. I do mind when it appears on every other page in a book that’s designated to be a thriller, especially when it concerns lewd descriptions of seventeen and thirteen year old children. Please stop describing nipples. Please stop describing teenage boy balls. I don’t want it, no I don’t. Yes, the words “yoga-practicing penis” appeared in this book. Yes, I hated it. Aside from its sexual nature, the language in this book was trying to be a lot while conveying very little. I really don’t enjoy pretentious writing, and that’s what this book was. It really took me out of my immersion in the plot.
Ending bad. You may remember from my review of The Silent Companions that I love a good ambiguous ending. That does NOT mean that I like wide-open endings where nothing is explained. All of the individual horrifying events that occur throughout the plot are never connected or explained in the slightest, beyond speculations from the characters that are never confirmed or denied. Overall, super unsatisfying and really any other ending would have been better than the one we got.
Pacing bad. This book is only 258 pages and it took me five days to get through. I’ve gone through 300+ page books in less than a day. That should tell you something about my interest in the plot and its pacing. Most of the time, nothing happened. I like slow-burn books but this one was just boring. The events that happened that constituted the “thriller” part were spaced too far apart and were too short to make up for the dearth of action in the rest of the book. The pacing picks up toward the last 50 pages of the book, but it’s just too little too late for me, especially considering the disappointing ending.
Rating & Final Thoughts
I think Leave the World Behind is a good 2.5 out of 5 stars. If I think about the bad things I want to give it a 1.5-2, but the theme and weird thrilling scenes made me want to round it up to a 3. So here we are. If you’re looking for more of a contemporary with a good theme and you don’t mind some slightly pretentious writing, I’d recommend this one. I think I just came in with different expectations an was let down when I ddn’t get the fast-paced thriller I was hoping for. Also, “yoga-practicing penis”. That is all.
Buy Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam here.*
*as a reminder, I am an Amazon affiliate and make a small commission off of purchases made using my link.