‘Leave the World Behind’ by Rumaan Alam – The Four Scariest Words


‘Leave the World Behind’ by Rumaan Alam (2020) – 256 pages


Here is my candidate for the scariest sentence, the four scariest words, in the English language: “The future is uncertain”.

I would feel better if I just knew what was happening.” Amanda looked toward the hall, could hear the plash of water in the bathtub. These words were not true, but she did not know that.

‘Leave the World Behind’ starts out with a family traveling from New York City to the outer reaches of Long Island looking for a week long escape from the city. The family is made up of father Clay who is a professor, mother Amanda who is an office manager, and their 16 year old son Archie and 13 year old daughter Rose. The family has rented a beautiful house with pool in a near-deserted part of Long Island just for a week.

Everything is fine at first, but the family’s situation soon turns from idyllic to ominous. Daughter Rose spots a herd of thousands of deer congregating in the woods. A flock of pink flamingos land in the swimming pool. All of the other birds are unnaturally quiet.

The animals,” Danny continued. “They know something. They’re spooked.”

The couple who are the actual owners of the vacation house, G. H. and Ruth, show up bringing word of a massive blackout across Manhattan from which they are escaping by going to their house. Clay and Amanda are of course reluctant to have them stay, since they paid to have the house all to themselves for a week.

Whenever the focus shifts to one or another member of the family or one of the house owners, the author lets us know what they are really thinking which is often cynical or disparaging of one of the others.

And then all of them are shaken by the Big Noise.

Not a bang, not a clap. More than thunder, more than an explosion…It was noise big enough to alter forever their working definitions of noise. You’d cry if you weren’t so scared.”

The atmosphere of impending doom looms closer and more oppressive, but we don’t know what it is. ‘Leave the World Behind’ provokes that feeling that one must have the second he or she is the victim of a fatal accident. “Why did this happen to me? Why did I let this happen to me?”

Ruth did understand. Everyone understood. This was what everyone wanted, to be safe. This was the thing that eluded every single one of them.”

Or maybe the four scariest words are “The future is certain”, since we all know what is going to ultimately happen to each of us.


Grade:   A-





4 responses to this post.

  1. That’s the thing about the pandemic, isn’t it? Time and again we hear people—especially business people—bleating about wanting certainty. They just don’t get it…we cannot have certainty, about business or anything else. Even in countries like ours which have managed reasonable control, we can’t have certainty that the virus won’t mutate; we can’t have certainty that everyone will obey the rules that prevent transmission; and we can’t even have certainty that once this pandemic fades there won’t be another one. the way I look at it, we’ve been lucky for a long time, and it’s been nice, but that’s over and we have to adapt, and anticipate adapting again and again after that.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Lisa,
      No one realized how good we had it before there was a pandemic. If the pandemic somehow disappears, can you imagine the giant party the world will have? We’ve been isolated too long.



      • LOL I think that there are still people who think it will all just go back to the way it was.
        I don’t think there was any great party after the Spanish Flu. There was a Depression.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: