Posts Tagged ‘Rumaan Alam’

‘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-





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